Egypt bars terror group from forming political party

Al-Gamaa al-Islamiyya waged violent campaign in 1990s culminating in Luxor massacre.

By OREN KESSLER
September 21, 2011 03:35
2 minute read.
Egypt Tahrir Square

Egypt Tahrir Square. (photo credit: REUTERS)

Egypt has barred an Islamic extremist group with a history of violence from forming a political party. Cairo rejected al-Gamaa al-Islamiyya's request on Monday, citing the group's platform as contravening regulations against forming explicitly religious parties.

"The decision is unjustified ... We are shocked," the organization's leader Abdel-Akher Hamad told the Associated Press. He said the group's platform calls for the implementation of Sharia law just as the Egyptian constitution, which specifies Islamic jurisprudence as the primary source of legislation.

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In the 1990s al-Gamaa al-Islamiyya waged an armed insurrection against the Hosni Mubarak government and symbols of foreign influence in Egypt. Its attacks killed hundreds of soldiers, civilians and tourists - its 1997 Luxor massacre killed 58 foreign tourists and four Egyptians, and prompted Cairo to wage an uncompromising crackdown on homegrown terrorism.

Following Mubarak's ouster in February, Egypt's ruling military council removed restrictions on forming new political parties. Judicial committees have been set up to accept applications for new parties, which are considered legal within 30 days unless authorities express objections.

The new rules, however, do not allow the formation of parties on religious grounds, or those discriminating against citizens on the basis of race of creed.
The Muslim Brotherhood - Egypt's largest, oldest and most influential Islamist group - has announced its formation of the Freedom and Justice party, and the ultraconservative Salafi movement has formed its own party, called Light. Both movements skirted restrictions by leaving explicit religious references out of their platforms.

Al-Gamaa al-Islamiyya is designated a terrorist organization by Egypt, the European Union and United States. Omar Abdel-Rahman, "The Blind Sheikh" believed to be its spiritual leader, is serving a life sentence in connection to the 1993 World Trade Center bombing and a series of planned attacks on American targets.

In 1998 the organization signed a "Nonviolence Initiative" with the Egyptian government. Abdel-Rahman gave his blessing from prison, but later reneged. The group's charter still calls for the overthrow of the Cairo government in favor of an Islamic state.

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