Sheikh Ali Benhadj, the second in command of Algeria’s Islamic Salvation Front, has strongly criticised the interim Egyptian government for declaring the Muslim Brotherhood a “terrorist” organisation, saying that the label is “political”. He described the designation as a ready-made charge that aims to justify the coup which defied the democratic will of the Egyptian people.
Benhadj suggested that the leaders of Egypt’s coup have made up this charge to give them an excuse to exterminate the Muslim Brotherhood, both physically and politically.
Egyptian authorities designated the Muslim Brotherhood as a terrorist organisation on Wednesday, one day after a bomb exploded at a police headquarters in the Egyptian city of Mansoura in the Nile Delta, killing at least 15 people and injuring more than 100. The Muslim Brotherhood immediately decried the attack and an unrelated jihadist group claimed responsibility. Nevertheless, the Egyptian government continued its crackdown, arresting dozens of Muslim Brotherhood members on Thursday and freezing the assets of charities affiliated with the Islamist movement.
Benhadj explained that: “The ‘terror’ designation that has unjustly been given to Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood is the same charge that was made up by the coup leaders in Algeria against their political opponents. The medium and long term results of this move were counterproductive.”
He continued: “If Algeria’s coup leaders were allowed to speak up now, many of them would express their regret for making that charge, which cost them and Algerians a very high price.”
In December 1991, the Islamic Salvation Front won the first round of Algeria’s parliamentary elections. The army responded by mounting a coup the following month, cancelling the second round of elections and seizing control of the government. A long and bloody civil war followed.
Benhadj noted that the Egyptian regime designated the Muslim Brotherhood as terrorists with the aim of winning over Egyptian, Arab and international public opinion in favour of the coup.
He called on the West to “distance itself from intervening in internal Arab affairs and not to give cover for what Egypt’s coup leaders and tyrants are doing or what Algeria’s tyrants did”.