The Brothers and the Interior Ministry

An interesting tidbit from the trial of Habib al-Adly, Mubarak's interior minister, from Ahram:

Essam El-Batawi, defence lawyer for former interior minister Habib El-Adly, continued laying out his case for his client’s innocence on Tuesday, claiming that Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood (MB) had planned in advance to participate in last year’s 28 January “Friday of Rage” demonstrations in Cairo’s Tahrir Square in coordination with the interior ministry, with the understanding that protests would remain peaceful in nature.

According to El-Batawi, meetings were held between Brotherhood members and representatives of the State Security apparatus in the run-up to 28 January.

This is entirely plausible and consistent with everything I've known about the Brothers over the last decade. Senior leaders were in constant contact with their State Security handlers. Is this damning for the MB? Perhaps. But maybe they weren't sure what to expect, and were waiting to see what the turnout was. Certainly they very quickly sided with the new powers that be on January 29, cozying up with Omar Suleiman who dangled recognition. And then again changed their position when he was compromised, although they never explicitly called for Mubarak to step down if I remember correctly. They adapted to the situation as it evolved, and it's worth remembering many Brotherhood leaders were arrested prior to the 28th.

The question is now whether they are continuing this approach with SCAF and the new security bosses. They almost certainly are, something that makes them sellouts to many of the revolutionary groups – as the rejection of their siding with SCAF on a handover of power to civilians in July rather than immediately shows.

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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.