MB's Essam al-Erian arrested

I have just received the following email from a friend in the Muslim Brotherhood:

I just received the news of the arrest (or re-arrest) of Essam El Erian, Chief of the Muslim Brotherhood's political bureau, who was banned from travelling to Turkey this morning. A number of leaders were also arrested, including Mahmoud Hussien, a member of the Executive Council.

El Erian spent most of his lifetime in prison, being arrested one time after the other. I fail to comprehend the logic of his arrest, especially that he is a well -known leader who appears on media outlets all the time, and is well known for his moderate stances, and tolerance. He enjoys the love and support of all political activists in the country, including his political opponents. In fact, some observers make distinctions between his discourse and that of other Brotherhood leaders, and claim that El Erian presents a moderate façade for a group which is not that moderate.

El Erian was elected to parliament in 1987, and was arrested several times. I could not count them now of course, but he was arrested in 1978, 1981, 1995 ( and was sentenced to five years in prison by a military tribunal), 2002, 2005, 2006, and was last released in December 2006, only 4 days before the arrest of Khayrat el Shater, the Muslim Brotherhood's deputy chairman.

The arrest of El Erian is a clear attempt by the regime to crackdown on the moderate leaders of the Brotherhood who could push the group towards more moderate stances. With El Shater and El Erian being behind bars, the Brotherhood's political leadership is being deprived of two of its most influential and moderate faces. The question remains: who does that serve?
It's a good question.
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Issandr El Amrani

Issandr El Amrani is a Cairo-based writer and consultant. His reporting and commentary on the Middle East and North Africa has appeared in The Economist, London Review of Books, Financial Times, The National, The Guardian, Time and other publications. He also publishes one of the longest-running blog in the region, www.arabist.net.