A panel of Egyptian judges has recommended getting rid of the Muslim Brotherhood group, adding momentum to a push by authorities to ban the ousted Islamist president’s main backers.
Since the military deposed Mohammed Morsi in a July 3 coup, it has steadily intensified a crackdown on the Brotherhood, Egypt’s largest political organization. Hundreds of its members are in detention and facing prosecution, many on charges of inciting violence.
Mr Morsi has been held in an undisclosed location since his ousting. On Sunday, state prosecutors charged him with inciting the murder of his opponents. A date has yet to be set for the trial, in which 14 leading Brotherhood members are also charged.
In its recommendation to Egypt’s administrative court, the panel of judges accused the Brotherhood of operating outside the law. It also recommended the closure of its Cairo headquarters.
The recommendation is non-binding for the court, which holds its next hearing on November 12.
Both state and private Egyptian media have adopted the interim government’s line on dealing with the Brotherhood since the coup, repeatedly describing the group’s actions and those of other Morsi supporters as acts of “terrorism.”
The 85-year-old organisation had faced legal challenges even before Mr Morsi’s removal. Officially banned for most of its existence, it flourished as a provider of social services to the country’s poor and eventually fielded candidates as independents or on the backs of other, legal parties.
But its lack of legal status had left it open to recurrent security crackdowns over the years. Thousands of its members had been imprisoned on charges ranging from endangering national security to belonging to an illegal organisation.
The Brotherhood rose to the forefront of Egyptian politics however after the 2011 popular uprising that forced long time autocrat Hosni Mubarak from power. The group then formed a political party and won majority seats in the parliament. Its candidate, Mr Morsi, became the country’s first Islamist president.
The distinction between the religious-based Brotherhood and its political party however remained unclear, raising questions about financing and legal status and driving many opponents to file lawsuits seeking Brotherhood’s dissolution.