54 Muslim brotherhood members arrested


By The Associated Press

CAIRO, Egypt — Police arrested 54 members of Egypt's largest opposition movement on Tuesday, the first day for registration of candidates for key local council elections, the group and police said.

The Muslim Brotherhood has accused the government of seeking to prevent it from running in the elections with a wave of arrests in recent weeks.

The arrests came in dawn raids in five provinces, a police official said, speaking on customary condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk to the media.

Brotherhood spokesman Gamal Nassar said the new arrests included some potential candidates for the April 8 local council elections.

''State security soldiers launched a savage campaign of arrests as part of the wide detention campaign carried out by the Egyptian authorities,'' the group's official Web site said.

A day earlier, 43 Brotherhood members were arrested in sweeps. The latest detentions bring to more than 400 the number of members arrested in the past month.

The Brotherhood stunned the government by scoring large victories in the 2005 parliament elections, winning a fifth of the seats in the 454-member body.

The elections for seats on key municipal councils were due to be held last year, but the government postponed them.

The 4,500 local councils are responsible for services at a district, town and village level and are critical institutions in Egypt's centralized state control.

They also play a key role in presidential elections since any would-be candidate for president must collect signatures of 250 local council and parliament members to be eligible.

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