CAIRO (Reuters) - Egyptian police detained up to 70 members of the banned Muslim Brotherhood opposition group on Tuesday as they began a poster campaign for the November parliamentary election, security and Brotherhood sources said.
The swoop was the latest in a series of arrests that started in October after the Brotherhood, which controls a fifth of seats in this parliament, said it would participate in the vote.
The Brotherhood skirts the ban by running candidates as independents. The group and analysts expect Egyptian authorities to prevent the Brotherhood securing as many seats in this race.
Although President Hosni Mubarak’s ruling party is once again expected to dominate the race, analysts say the vote is being watched to see how much space the authorities give the Brotherhood and other opponents, who complain votes are rigged.
Mubarak has been in power for almost 30 years.
Mohamed Elkatatny, who leads the Brotherhood’s parliamentary bloc, said 70 members were detained while security sources said 67 were hauled in during the swoop. Group members are frequently detained, often for long periods, without charge.
“They were hanging posters carrying one of the group’s slogans in the coming parliament elections: ‘Together We Will Make Change’,” Elkatatny told Reuters.
The security sources said 64 members of the group were detained in the coastal city of Alexandria and three from Beheira in the Nile Delta.
The sources said those detained had been conducting meetings on elections and possessed documents bearing religious slogans that are banned under election rules.
The detentions raised the number of Brotherhood members held to almost 140, based on previous statements of arrests and releases. Amnesty International called on Egypt last week to release or charge detained Brotherhood members.
As well as cracking down on the Brotherhood, analysts say the government has been clamping down on the media, for example by cancelling live broadcast licences.
The government says its recent moves in the media have no political aims and that any vote will be free and fair. Rights groups and observers say abuses were widespread in past votes.