Muslim Brotherhood leaders can be sentenced to death under a new, broadly defined Terrorism law passed Wednesday.
According to the Terrorism law, anyone who is caught or suspected in supporting the Muslim Brotherhood can be jailed up to five years, according to Interior Ministry spokesman Hany Abdel Latif. The punishment for those leading the organization: death, said Latif in a state television interview.
The new Terrorism charges even include anyone who finances of supports the group “verbally and in writing,” causing the Brotherhood’s newspaper, Freedom and Justice, to temporarily halt their publication out of fear of prosecution.
The announced restrictions on those who support the Muslim Brotherhood have worried observers, who say that Egypt’s crackdown is eerily similar to the Mubarak-style political oppression prior to the Arab Spring revolution of 2011. The new law has brought similar reactions from top officials around the world, among them U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, who “expressed concern” over the controversial move.
The ban on the Muslim Brotherhood follows a wave of violence in Egypt, including a car bombing on Tuesday in Mansoura that killed 15 people at a police headquarters. The military has placed blame on the Muslim Brotherhood for the attack with little to no evidence supporting the claim.
Such attacks have been claimed by a different group, Ansar Beit al-Maqdis, a noted hardline Islamist group, who are reacting violently to the ousting of Muslim Brotherhood leader Mohammed Morsi. The Muslim Brotherhood maintain that they seek to be peaceful participants in Egypt politics and have condemned the attacks.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry went on to say that while he too condemns the attacks, the Egyptian military should be mindful not to cast out a large portion of the electorate in the midst of a budding democracy.
In a phone call to Egyptain diplomat Nabil Fahmy, Kerry explained the imperative of the Egyptian government to include all aspects of Egyptian society, and “respect the fundamental rights of all Egyptians,” so that could a peaceful transition to democracy could be allowed to take place.
Still many argue, including Secretary of State John Kerry, that the ousting of Mohammed Morsi was necessary to “restore democracy” to Egypt. Kerry says the continued crackdown on the entirety of the Muslim Brotherhood is out of proportion for the misdeeds of their dismissed leaders.
Daily protests continue in Cairo to reinstate Morsi, while clashes between Morsi supporters and opponents rage on.
The Egyptian military following the ban arrested 16 Brotherhood activists in the province of Sharkiya on “suspicion of promoting the group’s ideology,” a direct violation of fundamental human rights say observers.
The tumult in Egypt comes as next month’s referendum on a new constitution is underway. The Egyptian military says that the design and passing of a new constitution will be next step in the democratic transition before the elections of a parliament and president.
Still observers say laws like this are only counter productive to the needs of a growing democracy. Alienating an entire political spectrum from participation is what brought the Egyptian people to the streets in 2011. Now, observers worry another violent revolt may be in the works of the Egyptian military doesn’t find a way to ease their crackdown on the opposition.
By John Amaruso