[JURIST] The Egyptian government has banned an annual gathering [MB press release] of the Muslim Brotherhood [party website; FAS backgrounder] as part of its crackdown on opposition to the Egyptian government, a Brotherhood official said Sunday. The Brotherhood gathers annually for a social celebration of the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan; 1,500 people usually attend the event. This is the first time the gathering has been banned by the government in 20 years. The Brotherhood has been banned as a political party since 1954, but its members run as independents and the organization has grown into Egypt's most powerful opposition movement with 88 seats in the 454-seat parliament.
The ban comes at a time of increasing tension between the Egyptian government, led by President Hosni Mubarak [official profile], and critics. Last week, a court sentenced the editors of four tabloids [JURIST report] for publishing criticisms of Mubarak and the ruling National Democratic Party (NDP) [party website]. Also last week, Egyptian prosecutors said they would put al-Dustour [media website] editor Ibrahim Issa on trial in a separate action for allegedly spreading "rumors" about Mubarak's health. In 2006, human rights groups condemned a court decision [JURIST report] to sentence a controversial newspaper editor to a year in prison for criticizing Mubarak, and three journalists went on trial [JURIST report] for allegedly slandering a local election commission chief by alleging fraud in parliamentary elections. AP has more.