Jewish occupied Egyptian
Authority muzzles a political party!
CNN, May 20, 2000 - Web posted at: 10:09 AM EDT (1409 GMT)
CAIRO, Egypt (Reuters)
Egyptian authorities Saturday effectively froze the activities of the Islamist-oriented opposition Labor Party (Hizb-alâmal ) and closed its gadfly newspaper al-Shaab.
A gouvernemental committee that regulates political parties announced that it did not recognise any of the three men currently contesting the leadership of the small Labor Party.
It said al-Shaab and other party newspapers would stay closed until the dispute was settled and referred accusations against the party and its leaders to the state-appointed socialist prosecutor for investigation.
Al-Shaab, long a thorn in the government's side, led a campaign this month against the re-printing by the Culture Ministry of "A Banquet for Seaweed" by Syrian novelist Haider Haider, which defamed Islam.
Protests against the 1983 novel turned violent when religious students at al-Azhar university clashed with police on May 8. About 55 students were hurt and 60 were arrested.
After calls in state-owned newspapers for the Labor Party and al-Shaab to be closed for their alleged role in inciting the riots, two "dissident" Labor Party factions held separate meetings this week to oust party leader Ibrahim Shukri.
"This is a serious setback for democracy and pluralism in this country," Labor Party secretary-general Adel Hussein told Reuters by telephone after Saturday's decision.
"I didn't imagine the authorities would be that stupid and I think all political parties and democratic forces will resist the decision, which is completely illegal."
He said the government was reacting to the party's attacks on corruption, but had "picked the wrong moment to express its despair and frustration" by "aligning itself against the nation" over the campaign against Culture Minister Farouk Hosni.
Hussein said Shukri's two supposed "leadership rivals", Hamdi Ahmed and Ahmed Idris, had no connection with the Labor Party.
Al-Azhar, the highest authority in Sunni Islam, this week condemned "A Banquet for Seaweed," a recognized literary work previously published in Syria, Jordan, Lebanon and Egypt.
Some commentators have linked the student riots and subsequent disarray in the Labor Party, informally allied to the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood, to November's parliamentary elections, from which Islamists are likely to be excluded.
On Thursday police arrested 40 suspected brotherhood members and security sources said an Interior Ministry report on the student riots blamed them on "agitators," a description officials often use for brotherhood members.
al-Shaab has repeatedly run into trouble with the authorities for its attacks on government ministers, and some of its editors and staff have been fined or jailed for libel.
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