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Egypt will discuss law to ‘uproot’ Muslim Brotherhood sympathisers from civil service

Move comes after calls by the transport minister to purge state institutions of Brotherhood's members and affiliates after deadly train accidents prompted calls for his resignation
Egyptian President Abdelfattah el-Sisi came to power in 2014 after ousting his democratically-elected predecessor who hailed from the Muslim Brotherhood (AFP/file photo)

Egypt’s parliament is set to discuss a draft law in the coming weeks aimed at dismissing individuals suspected of supporting or sympathising with the Muslim Brotherhood opposition group, a member of parliament has revealed.

According to MP Abdel Fattah Muhammad, the secretary of parliament's manpower committee, he is due to submit the draft law after Ramadan.

Muhammad told Al-Shorouk newspaper on Monday that the law will stipulate the exclusion of workers at any state institution who are proven to be Brotherhood affiliates or sympathisers.

'It appears the Sisi government will not be satisfied until it arrests each of the tens of millions of Egyptians who voted for the Freedom and Justice Party'

- Sarah Leah Whitson,
Democracy for the Arab World Now

“The bill will include an article stipulating that if a civil servant is suspected of being a member of, or sympathiser with, the terrorist Brotherhood group, he will be temporarily excluded, and if an investigation finds proof of affiliation, he will be permanently dismissed,” the MP said. 

Muhammad added that “all concerned authorities will participate in the search and investigation of these employees, although most of them are already known to the authorities”.

He called on the private sector to also follow suit, labelling Brotherhood supporters “a threat to the sector and its workers as they spread toxins and destroy the state”.

The bill has drawn condemnation from rights groups who dismissed it as another crackdown on democratic rights in the country. 

“The Egyptian government’s bill to terminate civil servants accused of being Muslim Brotherhood sympathisers, regardless of their professional excellence, is a reckless act of cannibalistic persecution that will endanger the safety and security of Egyptians,” Sarah Leah Whitson, executive director at Democracy for the Arab World Now (DAWN), told Middle East Eye. 

“It appears the Sisi government will not be satisfied until it arrests each of the tens of millions of Egyptians who voted for [the Brotherhood's] Freedom and Justice Party.”

The Muslim Brotherhood is widely considered Egypt's largest opposition group. However, along with secular opposition groups, it has been largely crushed since President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi came to power after ousting his Brotherhood-affiliated predecessor, Mohamed Morsi, in a military coup in 2013. 

Thousands of its members have since been detained, killed, or forced to live in exile for fear of persecution at home since the group was outlawed and labelled "terrorist".

Its former leader, Mahmoud Ezzat, is currently in jail serving a life sentence, while Morsi, the former head of the Brotherhood's political wing, the Freedom and Justice Party, died in custody in June 2019. 

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Sisi, who served as Morsi's defence minister, has been accused by rights groups of overseeing the worst mass killing of civilians in Egypt's modern history, after the deadly dispersal in 2013 of sit-ins protesting the coup against the country's first democratically elected leader. 

The general-turned-president, however, has justified the crackdown as part of his so-called "war on terror", while denying that the country has any political prisoners. 

The debate around the proposed law comes in the midst of a media campaign in Egypt that has been perceived by government critics as a coordinated attempt to legitimise the death penalty against opposition members under the pretext of their alleged affiliation to "terrorist groups".

The campaign includes the Egyptian Ramadan TV series Al Iktiyaar 2 (The Choice 2), which rights groups and government critics have linked to recent executions. They say it misrepresents the peaceful protests that took place in 2013 after Sisi ousted Morsi.

Some social media users have called the TV series a "rewriting of history" and said it falsified events in order to demonise the opposition and portray the army and security forces as the country's saviours. 

Meanwhile, pro-government columnists, including Yaser Rizk, have joined the debate by voicing support for a more systematic crackdown on the Brotherhood.

In a column on Sunday, Rizk urged the government to come up with a "comprehensive vision" to "uproot the Brotherhood group, put it in a coffin to be buried in the grave of history, without any possibility for resurrection".

Train accidents blamed on Brotherhood

The proposals come after the transportation minister, Kamel el-Wazir, recommended amendments to the Civil Service Law in a parliament hearing last week following a string of railway accidents that killed dozens of Egyptians and prompted calls for his resignation.

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In response to remarks by a number of MPs during a session last week, Wazir said he believed that reports of the presence of Brotherhood members and “extremist employees” are accurate. 

“This is correct and known information. The ministry has tried through different means to get rid of workers who have been confirmed by security agencies to be affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood,” he said.

The minister urged parliament to amend the Civil Service Law to allow for the dismissal of employees based on their political affiliations if they are suspected to be “extremists”.

He said the amendments would allow him to dismiss 162 workers from the railway authority who are proven to be linked to “extremist activities” as well as drug misuse. 

Amin Masoud, another MP, and secretary of parliament's housing and utilities committee, said the amendments are due to be formally discussed following Eid al-Fitr holidays around mid-May. 

If approved, the amendments would be a sequel to a similar law passed last year, giving the state the right to directly dismiss employees without referral to investigative authorities or disciplinary courts.