[JURIST] Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website] on Sunday criticized Egypt [statement] for arresting over 800 members of the opposition Muslim Brotherhood [party website; FAS backgrounder], including 148 candidates slated to run in local council elections scheduled for April 8. HRW characterized the arrests as a "shameless attempt to fix the upcoming elections." The Muslim Brotherhood [JURIST news archive] currently holds one-fifth of the seats in the lower house of parliament with members elected as independents. The organization has accused the government of trying to prevent it from running candidates in the upcoming elections which were originally scheduled for 2006 until the Egyptian legislature passed a law [JURIST report] delaying the elections for two years after the Muslim Brotherhood made a strong showing in the 2005 parliamentary elections. According to HRW, none of the Muslim Brotherhood members arrested in recent weeks have been charged "with actual crimes."
Earlier this month, several provincial Egyptian courts ruled that members of the Muslim Brotherhood must be allowed to register as candidates [JURIST report] in the upcoming elections, even as Egyptian police continued arrests of group members [JURIST report]. Muslim Brotherhood members officially run as independents in elections as the organization has been banned in Egypt [JURIST news archive] since 1954. The Egyptian government has accused the group of trying to create an Islamic theocracy through violence. Reuters has more.