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Muslim Brotherhood under legal threat

| Monday, Sept. 2, 2013, 9:36 p.m.
REUTERS
A woman shouts slogans in front of Boulaq Al-Dakrour police station, after an explosion in Giza, south of Cairo, September 2, 2013. An improvised bomb exploded at a police station in downtown Cairo on Monday, wounding two workers, the state news agency said. MENA said three people on a motorcycle hurled what it called a homemade hand grenade at the police station. There was no immediate claim of responsibility. REUTERS/Amr Abdallah Dalsh (EGYPT - Tags: POLITICS CIVIL UNREST MILITARY)

CAIRO — A judicial panel set up by Egypt's military-backed government supported a legal challenge to the status of the Muslim Brotherhood on Monday, compounding a drive to crush the movement behind the elected president deposed by the army in July.

While short of a formal ban on the Brotherhood, which worked underground for decades under Egypt's previous military-backed rulers, the panel's advice to a court to remove its non-governmental organization, or NGO, status threatens the million-member movement's future in politics.

An attack on a police station in central Cairo and plans for mass protests by the Brotherhood on Tuesday showed that the stability the interim government says it took over to impose after two-and-a-half years of turmoil is still elusive.

At least 900 people, most of them Islamist supporters of ousted President Mohamed Morsy, have been killed since the army takeover on July 3. The government has accused the Brotherhood of inciting violence and terrorism, and arrested its leaders.

Egypt's oldest political organization, the Brotherhood won a series of elections after protesters forced out longtime ruler Hosni Mubarak in 2011, culminating in last year's presidential vote. It formally registered itself in March as an NGO to secure its legal status.

The judicial panel backed Brotherhood opponents who argued that the NGO registration was illegal because the Brotherhood-led government had effectively issued a license to itself.

The panel's recommendation to the court due to rule on the case is not binding, judicial sources said, adding that the court's next session would be on Nov. 12.

It adds to a whole array of steps taken against the Brotherhood since the army stepped in after mass protests against economic mismanagement and attempts to entrench the movement's power during Morsy's rule.

The Brotherhood formally operates in the political arena as the Freedom and Justice Party. There has so far been no attempt to outlaw the party, but its NGO status was seen as a bulwark against legal attack.

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