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Conflicts in Egypt may escalate amid arrest of Brotherhood chief, Mubarak's possible freedom

Mohamed Badie, supreme guide of the Muslim Brotherhood (MB), was arrested in northeast Cairo early Tuesday, a new blow dealt by the Egyptian government to the Islamist group.

The Brotherhood moved quickly to appoint Mahmoud Ezzat, the organization's deputy supreme guide, to assume the role of its new chief on a temporary basis.

More than 100 top and key members of the MB have been detained and nearly 900 supporters of ousted President Mohamed Morsi have been killed since the police forcibly cleared their two camps in Cairo last Wednesday.

Ezzat, who has been described as the group's "iron man," was expected to adopt the same tough political positions as Badie and other leaders did and to continue their resistance to the military-backed authorities.

Badie's detention would further ratchet up tensions in Egypt and deepen the turmoil roiling the most populous Arab country, analysts said. And the MB might fight back more fiercely under the leadership of the hawkish Ezzat as a response to what they called the government's relentless suppression.

Possibility of More Furious Resistance

According to the Egyptian authorities, Badie, 70, was facing charges of inciting violence and killing of anti-Brotherhood protesters.

Live television footage on the country's private channel ONTV on Tuesday showed a disconsolate-looking Badie, accompanied by policemen, was sitting on a sofa beside a table.

The analysts said that it was unlikely that Badie's removal could have a major impact on the Islamist group in practical terms.

Tharwat Kharabawy, a dissident former Brotherhood's leader, told Xinhua that Badie is considered a relatively weak leader despite being supreme guide while his four deputy guides, including Ezzat, are generally believed more influential in the group's decision-making.

He said Ezzat is one of the most important leaders of the MB and "regarded as the real guide of the organization," adding that he is an "intelligent and well-organized man" with rich experience in management.

According to Kharabawy, Tuesday's arrest and security forces' tough stance on protesters could backfire, triggering new waves of protests by the Brotherhood after a lull in dozens of cities in Egypt.

In particular, it was scarcely possible for the hawkish new leader to give up resistance, Kharabawy noted.

Meanwhile, the North African country, where a dust-to-dawn curfew remained in place, would once again enter a state of emergency due to Tuesday's arrest, said the analyst.

Egypt At Crossroads

Hours before Badie was imprisoned, Farid al-Deeb, lawyer of Hosni Mubarak, told reporters on Monday that the former leader was likely to be released from prison within two days after a prosecutor cleared him in a corruption case.

According to judicial sources, an Egyptian criminal court would examine the bail petition filed by his lawyer on Wednesday for the 85-year-old strongman, who was overthrown in an uprising in 2011.

If the petition is upheld, Mubarak will be released as there was no further legal grounds for his detention, although he is still facing a retrial on Aug. 25 for bribery and involvement in the murder of protesters during the revolt.

Even the fate of Mubarak remained unclear till now, the analysts said the release would stir more political unrest in the country where his former opponents are being hunted down and the pro-Morsi group is on the brink of being dismissed.

Egyptian Defense Minister Gen Abdulfattah al-Sisi reaffirmed on Sunday in a speech that the Islamists still had a role to play in the country's political stage, but he also urged Morsi's supporters to quit resisting the government.

Experts pointed out that the possible freedom of Mubarak would be seen by many Egyptians as a signal that the 2011 uprising had been reversed after the military resumed its power, further complicating the country's already divided political landscape.

[Source: By Wang Lei, Xinhua, Cairo, 20Aug13]

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Crisis in Egypt
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