Egypt detains 73 members of Muslim Brotherhood

Egyptian police arrested 73 members of the Muslim Brotherhood on Thursday, in what appeared to be a pre-emptive strike against the country's largest Islamic group ahead of elections and a key parliamentary debate, spokesman for the police and the Brotherhood said. The arrests bring the total of Brotherhood members in custody to just under 300, according to figures provided by the group and Human Rights Watch. Police did not give a reason for Thursday's early morning detentions, but those arrested were mostly Brothers who were expected to stand in the April elections for the Shura Council, the upper house of parliament, as well as assistants to the group's legislators, said Abdel Gelil el-Sharnoubi, the editor of the Brotherhood's Web site. El-Sharnoubi said the group had not yet chosen its candidates for the Shura polls, "but the government targeted figures who are popular in their provinces and are expected to run the elections." Last week Mubarak signed an order to put 40 Brothers on trial in a military court on charges of money laundering and terrorism.