CAIRO — An Egyptian minister said Tuesday that the government would “postpone” the court-ordered dissolution of the Muslim Brotherhood, according to the state-run Middle East News Agency.
The statement comes after an obscure court issued a sweeping but legally questionable decision Monday to ban the Muslim Brotherhood and all related organizations and activities, which appears to grant the military-backed government expansive legal authority to go after the group’s finances and other assets and essentially criminalizes its political and social service work.
Legal experts said the contradictory decisions reflect division within the government over how to deal with the 85-year-old Islamist organization, even as a brutal crackdown against it continues.
“This means that there is no unified decision within the government” to ban the Brotherhood, said Ziad Abdel Tawab, deputy director of the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Study. “It is very apparent that there is a wing of the government negotiating with them and others willing to use security measures until the end against the Brotherhood.”
Since the military coup that ousted Mohamed Morsi from the presidency in July, the faction seeking to obliterate his backers has decidedly won out.
Hundreds of Muslim Brotherhood supporters have been killed and thousands more, including Morsi and other top leaders of the organization, have been arrested.
Security forces have been raiding rural towns and villages that are bastions of more-militant Islamists opposed to the coup. On Tuesday, security forces barreled into the village of Nahya just outside Cairo, searching for people suspected of killing 15 police officers in the turbulence that followed the coup, state television reported.
Some experts view Monday’s court ruling as telegraphing the government’s desire to continue on the path toward destruction of the group, which was first banned in 1954, operated underground for decades and emerged as a political powerhouse during the 2011 Arab Spring revolt that toppled autocrat Hosni Mubarak.
But Tuesday’s decision by the head of the Ministry of Social Solidarity, the agency that would implement the court decision, cast a hint of doubt on that interpretation. The minister, Ahmed el-Borai, said the dissolution of the group would be postponed until two more court cases involving the legality of the Brotherhood are settled, the Middle East News Agency reported. It is unclear when those rulings would be issued.
Brotherhood officials said they would appeal Monday’s ruling, even though no members of the group are party to the original lawsuit, which experts say means they have no legal standing to file an appeal.
Sharaf al-Hourani contributed to this report.