[JURIST] Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website] on Saturday urged [press release] the Egyptian government to reverse its decision to label the Muslim Brotherhood [party website, JURIST news archive] as a terrorist organization, calling the label politically driven. The declaration [JURIST report], made by the country's interim government on Wednesday, makes the group subject to Article 86 of the Egyptian penal code [text, PDF] which defines both terrorism and the penalties for it. The punishment for membership in a terrorist organization is five years imprisonment. The government's decision on the group, according to HRW Middle East and North Africa director Sarah Leah Whitson [official profile], comes after months of government efforts to vilify them. Whitson went on to call the "unrelenting repression of the group" a breach of the Brotherhood's fundamental human rights and freedoms. The press release from HRW also calls for the government to stop interfering with the Brotherhood's health, education and other peaceful activities. Egyptian legal experts say that the decree will cause the end [WP report] of hundreds of charities and nongovernmental organizations associated with the group which provide health care and other services to rural and urban areas lacking infrastructure as anyone found to be participating in the activities of the Brotherhood would be subject to prosecution.
The Egyptian government has been cracking down on the Muslim Brotherhood recently. The designation of the Brotherhood as a terrorist group followed the bombing of a police station in the Delta city of Mansoura one day prior that killed 16 people and left over 130 injured. Earlier this month Egyptian state media reported [JURIST report] that ousted Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi [BBC backgrounder] will be tried on charges of espionage and terrorism along with 35 other defendants, many of whom are also former high-level officials and members of the Muslim Brotherhood. In late September an Egyptian court banned [JURIST report] the Brotherhood after having previously banned [JURIST report] several media outlets earlier in the month for their alleged support of the group. The order closing the outlets claimed they had been providing biased news reports favoring the Brotherhood. Morsi was deposed [JURIST report] as president in early July, when the Egyptian military took control of the government and suspended the nation's constitution. Egypt has faced near-continual unrest since its revolution overthrowing [JURIST backgrounder] the autocratic government of Hosni Mubarak in 2011.