[JURIST] Egyptian police on Sunday arrested 51 members of the opposition Muslim Brotherhood [party website; FAS backgrounder], most of whom were expected to run in upcoming provincial council elections scheduled for April 8 [MB report]. Egypt's provincial councils administer local municipal government services. These municipal elections were originally scheduled for 2006, but the Egyptian legislature passed a law [JURIST report] to delay the elections for two years after the Muslim Brotherhood made a strong showing in the 2005 parliamentary elections. Last Thursday, Egyptian police arrested dozens of MB members "with no clear justification," according to the Muslim Brotherhood website. AP has more.
The Muslim Brotherhood is the largest opposition party in Egypt [JURIST news archive]. Its members run officially as independents because the Muslim Brotherhood has been banned in Egypt since 1954. Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website] has criticized [press release] Egypt for repressing the group in a manner that "flouts fundamental human rights and freedoms." The Egyptian government accuses the organization of trying to create an Islamic theocracy through violence.