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Egyptian court upholds ruling to ban Muslim Brotherhood; group says it will appeal

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CAIRO - A court in Egypt upheld Wednesday an earlier ruling that banned the Muslim Brotherhood and ordered its assets confiscated, the state news agency reported. The decision moves forward the complicated process of the government taking control of the Islamist group's far-reaching social network and its finances.

The Cairo Court for Urgent Matters rejected the Brotherhood's appeal to suspend the Sept. 23 ruling that ordered the group's assets confiscated and its activities banned.

The sweeping September verdict was viewed as a legal pretext for the interim authorities to move against assets owned or administered by Brotherhood members, including schools, hospitals, charities, and businesses.

It is part of a wider government crackdown against the group following the popularly backed coup in July that removed President Mohammed Morsi, a Brotherhood member and Egypt's first elected leader after the 2011 fall of autocrat Hosni Mubarak.

Senior leaders have been arrested, and many of them sent to trial on a number of charges, including Morsi himself. His trial began Monday on charges of incitement to murder.

Egypt's military-backed authorities formed a committee on Oct.2 to review the Brotherhood assets but have not moved against its finances.

Outlawed for most of its 85-year existence — with successive regimes alternating between repression and tolerance — the Brotherhood built its networks largely underground. That made it difficult for authorities to track, since many institutions were registered under individuals' names.

Brotherhood lawyer Osama el-Helw said the group will file another appeal against Wednesday's ruling, but this appeal unlike the first will not suspend implementation of the ban unless it is accepted by a court. It is also unlikely to reverse the initial ruling, legal experts said.

Ahmed Ragheb, an independent rights lawyer, said the decision has legal flaws: It comes from the wrong court and its guidelines for a government monitoring Brotherhood assets are unclear.

Technically, Wednesday's verdict allows the government to move in on the group's assets. The committee that includes judicial, security and intelligence officials has started to do an inventory of the group's finances.

The government has come under pressure from politicians and public figures to fast-track the financial crackdown on the group, blaming the government-formed committee of stalling on implementing the court ruling. On Wednesday, the Cabinet asked the committee to issue regular reports about its work.

The leftist Tagammu party, which filed the case demanding the banning of the group, said the new ruling should give the authorities the green light to move.

"The government must take urgent measures to implement the court ruling ... and prove it is serious about implementing the law," Hani el-Husseini, a Tagammu member, told the official MENA news agency.

El-Helw said the government has already violated due process by forming the committee and allowing it to begin its work while the group had filed for suspension of ruling.

"We will pursue legal means. Let the law be the arbiter," el-Helw said.

Brotherhood lawyers also said they were considering other legal options, such as filing new court cases against the verdict in a different court.

The group issued a defiant statement saying that the movement was not a "passage in a book" that could be struck out with a "politicized verdict," but rather consists of "ideas that connect its members." It said the decision would hurt millions of Egyptians who it claims rely on the Brotherhood's services.

The initial court's explanation to ban the group gave few specific legal grounds, and denounced the group in broad political terms, saying that during Morsi's year in office, "Egyptians found only repression and arrogance."

The ruling banned the group as well as "any institution branching out of it or ... receiving financial support from it," which could also force the disbanding of its political wing, the Freedom and Justice Party.

There is another legal case before Egypt's administrative court seeking to dissolve the group's offshoot, a non-governmental organization registered after the group rose to power in 2012. The court is holding its next session on Nov. 12.

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