Egypt's army-backed government has decided to dissolve the Muslim Brotherhood as a registered non-governmental organization, a state-run newspaper reported on Friday, cracking down on deposed President Mohammed Morsi's movement.
The decision applies to the NGO registered by the Brotherhood in March in response to a lawsuit that argued the group had no legal status. It marks a mostly symbolic legal blow to Morsi's group as the authorities round up its members in the harshest crackdown in decades.
"The minister's decision has in fact been issued but it will be announced at the start of next week in a press conference," Al-Akhbar newspaper quoted Hany Mahana, spokesman for the minister of social solidarity, as saying.
The first test of the decision to dissolve the Brotherhood is likely to come on Egypt's streets after Friday prayers. Even before the ban was reported, the Muslim Brotherhood and its supporters had called for mass protests across the country after the prayers, especially in Cairo.
Social Solidarity Minister Ahmed el-Boraie's decision stemmed from accusations that the movement deviated from its mission and acted against Egypt's national security after its leaders incited violence, and after weapons were found in its headquarters in Cairo and in other locations registered under the NGO.
It is still unclear how the new ruling affects its political wing, the Freedom and Justice Party.
It is believed in Egypt that banning the Brotherhood will only force the movement underground. Other factions who identify with the Brotherhood may also use this decision to act against the government.
Dissolving the Brotherhood was first proposed last month, but it gained support in recent days, after an attempt on Interior Minister Mohamed Ibrahim's life on Thursday.
The Brotherhood won parliamentary and presidential elections after veteran autocrat Hosni Mubarak was overthrown in 2011, but the army deposed Morsi on July 3 in response to mass protests against his rule.
The security forces have killed hundreds of Morsi's supporters and arrested many of its leaders on charges of inciting violence.
Though formally outlawed under Mubarak, the Brotherhood was grudgingly tolerated for much of his presidency, taking part in parliamentary elections and operating a charity network that helped to it to become Egypt's biggest political party.
The Brotherhood was founded in 1928 but formally dissolved by Egypt's army rulers in 1954. The group's opponents drew on that to argue the Brotherhood remained an illegal movement even after Mubarak's downfall. In response, the Brotherhood decided to shore up its legal standing by formally registering as an NGO.
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