MB Arrests following Protests

As many as 1500 Muslim Brotherhood supporters were arrested following multi-governate protests on 4 May (President Mubarak's 77th Birthday), according to the MB.

Khaleej Times used a Reuters report dated from yesterday, in citing the detentions.

Arrests were most prominent in Sharqiya, Fayoum, Monsoura, Alexandria, Kafr al-Shaykh.

The MB Supreme Guide, Mohamad Mahdi Akif, said "We stress that the Brotherhood continues to demand reform. These oppressive means only increase the tensions in Egypt." MB statements and slogans are much more benign than other group's mobilizing against the government.

Cairo's MB protest was said to consist of 2,500 people - which is much lower than they are capable of mobilizing but far more than any Kifaya protest has been able to muster to date.

The protest, according to CNN, witnessed MB chanting slogans such as "Muslim Brotherhood is part of the nation" and "Copts are sons of the nation" (which is a first to my knowledge).

The MB has been criticized for their distance in the ongoing social opposition protests underway in earnest since December 2004. Most of their demos have been arranged through getting permission from State-Security, raising questions about the opposition nature of such events. Similarly, Akif has said several times (most recently on 22 April) that the MB "will back the candidature of President Hosni Mubarak for another Mandate."

Where exactly the MB falls on the issue of the dissenting opposition movements seen in Kifaya, the judges, the professors, al-Ghad, and others remains unclear.

Sure enough though, the arrest of at least 1,000 MB supporters following Wednesday's demo is strikingly large but keeps with the trend that outside Cairo different levels of repression apply in comparison to the capital. Every parliamentary electoral year, the MB is subjected to round-ups but nothing on the scale of this.
_____________________
As a side-note, many of the journalists I have spoken with in the past few days remarked that they had no prior knowledge that Wednesday's demo was taking place. Not that observers' presence probably would have made much difference but the lack of publicity seems to work in favor of the government.


UPDATE:

In separate arrests this morning Assam al-Arian (Brotherhood spokesperson for Akif) was arrested at his Giza-home this morning along with three other MBs leaders (Omar Darrag, Hamdi Shaheen and Mohammed Assabchi) because they were planning a pro-Palestinian protest today.

Assam spent between 1995-2000 in jail - he was arrested in preparation for the 1995 elections.

Arrests of the opposition is starting to be a daily occurrence.

UPDATE #2:

According to the AP,
MB Mohammed Habib said more than 2,000 supporters of the group were arrested during the past two days. Police estimates put the number at about 600 this week.

Yesterday also saw another political opposition protester die.

MB Tariq Ghannam, a 40-year old school teacher, died in a stampede after police used tear gas to disperse some 2,000 protesters who threw stones that injured 30 police Delta town of Talkha.
The authorities claim he had a heart attack.