Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood is promising to press on with its massive protests despite the arrest of its spiritual leader, saying its struggle will remain nonviolent.
Egypt’s military detained Mohamed Badie early Tuesday in a neighborhood of eastern Cairo where for weeks protesters rallied against Egypt’s interim military government. Video of the 70-year-old Badie on Egyptian television showed him sitting on a couch with his hands folded in his lap as a man with a rifle stands by.
During a press conference Tuesday, members of the Islamist Muslim Brotherhood demanded an economic boycott, adding they would refuse to buy products from countries that backed Egypt’s interim military government, such as Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.
Despite intense pressure from the military government, VOA Cairo Correspondent Elizabeth Arrott says the islamist group has vowed not to back down.
“Amir Bassam, on the board of the Brotherhood’s political wing, spoke to VOA by telephone from an undisclosed location in Greater Cairo,” Arrott said. “He said despite the many arrests, it’s impossible to eliminate the Brotherhood as it represents what he called a “genuine, integral, working part of Egyptian society.”
The Brotherhood has appointed 69-year-old Mohamed Ezzat as its temporary spiritual guide. But Ezzat and the Brotherhood will have to contend with more than Egypt’s military.
Despite growing international concerns about the military crackdown that has killed more than 900 people in the last week, some Egyptians welcomed news of Badie’s arrest.
Badie has been seen by some as the driving force behind the presidency of Mohamed Morsi, who was ousted by Egypt’s military on July 3rd after days of large-scale demonstrations by Egyptians unhappy with his rule.
Badie is due to go on trial August 25 along with his chief deputy, Khairat el-Shater, who is also in custody. They are accused of inciting deadly violence outside the group’s headquarters in June, days before the military deposed Morsi.
Badie’s arrest comes just a day after militants in Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula attacked and killed 25 police officers and two days after 36 Muslim Brotherhood supporters died in prison. Officials said the prisoners suffocated when tear gas was used to control an escape.
Since Egypt’s military responded to days of protests and ousted Morsi, the official death toll for violence across Egypt has topped 1,000 people. The Muslim Brotherhood says many more people have died.
International concern and condemnation over the military crackdown on the Brotherhood and Morsi supporters has been growing.
Meanwhile, the White House has dismissed as “not accurate” American media reports the Obama administration is withholding some military aid to Egypt while cosidering how to response to escalating violence following Morsis’s outster.
“Providing foreign assistance is not like a spigot,” said White House spokesman Josh Ernest. “You don’t turn it off and on or turn it up or down like a faucet. Assistance is provided episodically, […] it’s provided in specific traunches, and so those traunches are under an ongoing review.”
U.S. media outlets reported Tuesday that a spokesman for U.S. Senator Patrick Leahy confirmed that Leahy was told the aid has been halted. Obama administration officials have said they are continuing to review U.S. policy of sending $1.5 billion a year to Cairo.
On Wednesday, European Union diplomats are set to meet in Geneva to review its $6.7 billion in aid to Egypt.
In another development, Egyptian authorities may soon free former leader Hosni Mubarak, who has spent more than two years in custody following the 2011 popular revolt that drove him from power.
A court said Monday he could no longer be held on charges that he and his sons stole public money for presidential palaces. With that order, Mubarak remains in detention in connection with only one other case.