Egypt`s Muslim Brotherhood: A dramatic rise and fall
Egypt`s Muslim Brotherhood faces its toughest trial in decades after being declared a "terrorist" group following a spectacular fall from power, with its leaders imprisoned or on the run.
Cairo: Egypt`s Muslim Brotherhood faces its toughest trial in decades after being declared a "terrorist" group following a spectacular fall from power, with its leaders imprisoned or on the run.
The 85-year-old Islamist movement, which was the most well-organised opposition group during decades of dictatorship despite being banned, stepped out of the shadows after the 2011 uprising that ended Hosni Mubarak`s 30-year-rule.
It won a string of polls culminating in last year`s presidential election, when its candidate Mohamed Morsi became Egypt`s first freely elected leader.
Morsi`s rule saw the movement grow increasingly unpopular, however, as critics charged him with mismanaging the economy and betraying the democratic hopes of the 2011 "revolution" by allegedly consolidating power in the hands of the Brotherhood.
On July 3, the military toppled and detained Morsi following mass protests demanding his resignation.
Since then police, who have always viewed the Islamists as a threat, have been settling scores in a crackdown that has killed more than 1,000 people, mostly Islamists, and imprisoned thousands, including Morsi and the Brotherhood`s top leadership.
The military-installed government signalled a widening of the crackdown Wednesday when it declared the Brotherhood a terrorist organisation and blamed it for a suicide bombing at a police compound already claimed by a Sinai-based jihadist group.
The Muslim Brotherhood was founded in 1928 by schoolteacher Hassan al-Banna as a grass-roots movement opposed to colonialism and Zionism and committed to bringing an increasingly secular Egypt back to Islam.
In the group`s earlier days it was more radical, and in the 1940s was implicated in a string of assassinations, including the 1948 killing of Prime Minister Mahmud Fahmi al-Noqrashi following a crackdown on the group.
Egyptian leader Gamal Abdel Nasser brutally repressed the Brotherhood in the 1950s and 1960s, leading to the emergence of more radical Islamist groups now seen as precursors to Al-Qaeda.
But the Brotherhood itself officially renounced violence decades ago and embraced social outreach and grass-roots political activism, eventually taking part in the deeply flawed elections held under Mubarak despite being officially banned since the 1950s.
The Brotherhood amassed a following of hundreds of thousands, including non-Islamists who came to rely on its social programmes as public services worsened under an increasingly corrupt and unpopular state.
The Brotherhood`s embrace of electoral politics distanced the group from Al-Qaeda and other radical Islamists, who view the ballot as un-Islamic, but the Brotherhood`s leaders may rethink their approach following the abrupt termination of Morsi`s presidency.
Its leaders and cadres are no strangers to prison, having been persecuted under three presidents, but the latest crackdown is already the worst in a half-century, and looks set to widen further.