Egypt cracks down on 'Islamists'     


Egypt has detained "73 Islamists" in the Nile Delta pending investigation into what ties, if any, they have with the banned Muslim Brotherhood group, security sources have said. 

Mohamed Habib, the Brotherhood’s deputy leader denied his group - Egypt's largest opposition movement - had any connection to the men in detention on Saturday. The security sources said the men, arrested in the province of Manoufiya mostly during the past few days, were members of salafist groups that follow a conservative purist brand of Sunni Islam.  

The daily al-Masry al-Youm newspaper, said the detained salafists were accused of forming a group to support the Brotherhood, especially in elections due later this year for the Shura Council, the upper house of Egypt's parliament.   

It said the detentions of the salafists had started this month after the Muslim Eid al-Adha holiday and accelerated alongside a crackdown against Brotherhood members, scores of whom have been detained.    

Egyptian authorities launch regular crackdowns on the Muslim Brotherhood, which operates openly despite being officially banned in 1954.      But some analysts say the government is preparing a wider assault on the group after Hosni Mubarak, the Egyptian president, said this month the Brotherhood posed a threat to Egypt's security.      

University protests   The government was also angered by a protest march at al-Azhar University last month in which Islamist students wore militia-style uniforms and black balaclavas.   Egyptian state media said the march showed that the group was forming a militia. This accusation was dismissed by the Brotherhood.       

Mubarak has proposed constitutional amendments that include a ban on forming political parties based on religion. The Brotherhood says it wants to establish a civil, democratic party that is not exclusive to Muslims.      

Brotherhood members elected as independents hold 88 seats in the 454-member lower house of parliament, which is dominated by Mubarak's ruling National Democratic Party.   

Torture allegations   Ahead of the 2007 elections, the government has also cracked down on journalists, after Egyptian newspapers published several photographs of people reportedly being tortured by the security services. Last week Howaida

Taha, a documentary producers with Al Jazeera, was released on bail after being detained by security officials for investigating claims of torture inside Egyptian prisons. 

Taha's film depicted actors dramatising scenes of people being tortured in Egyptian prisons.  

"One of the charges was that I tarnished Egypt's reputation and harming Egyptian national interests, so I showed him all the videotapes," she said after her release.   

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