CAIRO, June 1 (Reuters) – Egyptian police detained 48 members of the opposition Muslim Brotherhood on Thursday in a crackdown ahead of parliamentary elections, a security source said on Friday.
In one of the largest single-day tolls against the movement since February, police arrested members of Egypt’s most powerful opposition group in raids in Giza, Menoufiya and Beni Suef, the security source said.
The crackdown has drawn criticism from rights groups like U.S.-based Human Rights Watch (HRW), who called on the Egyptian government to legalise the Brotherhood and stop arresting people for membership.
The security source said that following earlier raids on Thursday, police detained another 31 members of the group to bring the total to 48. A Brotherhood lawyer said the detainees included senior figures in the group’s provincial hierarchies.
Both Human Rights Watch (HRW) and the Brotherhood have linked the recent wave of detentions to preparations for June 11 polls for the upper house of parliament, or Shoura Council.
The government says the Brotherhood is an illegal organisation and frequently detains its members for holding meetings or possessing Brotherhood literature.
But the organisation runs an office in Cairo and fields candidates in elections as independents. On Monday, the Brotherhood said it had successfully registered 19 candidates for the June 11 elections, one short of its goal of 20.
Egyptians have largely ignored elections for the Shoura Council, or upper house, in the past, but the next ballot will be the first since changes to the constitution gave some legislative powers to the council.
The Brotherhood won 88 seats in the 454-seat parliament in 2005, but has no seats in the Shoura Council. On Tuesday, police detained a Muslim Brotherhood candidate for the Shoura Council and 11 supporters as they campaigned in the province of Sharkia.