Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood members seek deal with authorities

Those signing the letter said they are ready for any measures decided by authorities to ensure they would not return to violent activity if released.
Saturday 31/08/2019
Lesson learnt? Senior Muslim Brotherhood member Saad  al-Katatni (C-R) sits alongside fellow member Sobhy Saleh (C-L) behind bars during their trial, last December. (AFP)
Lesson learnt? Senior Muslim Brotherhood member Saad al-Katatni (C-R) sits alongside fellow member Sobhy Saleh (C-L) behind bars during their trial, last December. (AFP)

CAIRO - Thousands of Muslim Brotherhood junior members have entreated Egyptian authorities to release them from jail in return for a promise to abandon the Islamist movement’s policies, lead an apolitical life and refrain from playing any religious role in the country.

“We want to reach an agreement that ends this ordeal,” inmates said in a letter to Egyptian authorities

“The Brotherhood detainees have learnt the lesson the hard way, are ready to reconsider their positions and aspire to have a new chance to live peacefully with other Egyptians,” they added in the letter, which was leaked to the media.

Tantamount to a new “reconciliation initiative,” the letter was signed by approximately 1,500 junior members of the Muslim Brotherhood.

Authorities arrested and jailed thousands of Muslim Brotherhood members and sympathisers following the 2013 ouster of Egyptian President Muhammad Morsi, a long-time Muslim Brotherhood leader. Most were convicted of involvement in the killing of dozens of policemen, burning churches and bomb attacks in which civilians died.

Those signing the letter said they are ready for any measures decided by authorities to ensure they would not return to violent activity if released. They propose to each pay $5,000 to the state treasury, an amount of money, some people say, that could make a vast amount of cash available for the national economy, given the number of Brotherhood members in jail.

Egyptian authorities have not officially commented on the “reconciliation” offer, which comes from junior-level detainees and has nothing to do with the Brotherhood as an organisation. However, it is stirring debate with Brotherhood opponents warning against official leniency with a movement that has antagonised the Egyptian public since Morsi’s ouster.

“Such an initiative is totally unacceptable,” said security expert Hatem Saber. “It is only an attempt by these Brotherhood members to return to the political stage, using a twisted method.”

Egypt’s clampdown on the Brotherhood has almost totally undermined the group and done away with its organisational presence on the street. Egypt also initiated a cultural war against the Islamist movement, including the use of the media and the religious establishment, to defeat the Brotherhood ideology.

In late 2014, Egyptian authorities outlawed the Brotherhood, disbanded it as an organisation and dissolved dozens of affiliated agencies. Authorities have seized tens of billions of Egyptian pounds in Brotherhood funds to deprive it of money that could be used in terrorist attacks.

Reaction to the initiative by senior members of the international organisation of the Brotherhood included quick denials of links with the proposal.

“Those who want to quit the organisation are free to do so,” said Ibrahim Munir, a senior member of the Brotherhood international organisation.

Apart from reflecting the state of desperation within Brotherhood ranks, the initiative throws light on rifts between the junior members and the old guard of the Islamist organisation.

The Brotherhood’s policy of antagonising the Egyptian state and public, including by letting Brotherhood militias loose, staging terrorist attacks and carrying out a media war against the government of Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, showed no success.

While Brotherhood leaders incite its members to act against Egyptian authorities, the leaders live in relative ease in Europe, including in Turkey where most Brotherhood leaders were welcomed.

“The leadership of the Brotherhood cares nothing about group members who are in jail,” said Ibrahim Rabie, a former member of the Brotherhood. “They live in wealth in Europe and leave the majority of group members alone on the front line.”

In 2014, Sisi expressed opposition to releasing Islamists from jails and making reconciliation with them. He said that, as minister of defence, he had advised Morsi against letting Islamists out of the jails.

“I told him [Morsi] that you are releasing from the jails people who will kill us,” Sisi said.

This may give insight into how Sisi’s regime might view the new initiative of the Brotherhood junior members. They are likely stuck between a regime unwavering in its position towards the Brotherhood and a leadership that cares nothing about its followers, analysts said.

“The leadership is letting the members of the group down and this was totally expected,” said Muneer Adeeb, a specialist in Islamism. “This leadership leaves the members to bear alone the brunt of public and state anger at the Brotherhood.”

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