Egypt shutters office of Muslim Brotherhood paper

Sep 25, 2013, 1:24 PM EDT
FILE - In this Monday, July 1, 2013 file photo, an Egyptian protester ransacks the Muslim Brotherhood headquarters in the Muqatam district in Cairo. An Egyptian court on Monday, Sept. 23, 2013 ordered the Muslim Brotherhood to be banned and its assets confiscated in a dramatic escalation of a crackdown by the military-backed government against supporters of the ousted Islamist president Mohammed Morsi.
(AP Photo/Khalil Hamra)

CAIRO (AP) — Egyptian security forces on Wednesday shuttered the office of the newspaper of the Muslim Brotherhood's political party and confiscated furniture and documents, journalists from the Freedom and Justice daily said.

In a statement Wednesday, the journalists appealed to Egypt's press syndicate to take action against the closure in Cairo's Manial district, where the office is now sealed.

The closure comes two days after a court ordered the group outlawed and its assets seized. Egypt's interim government however said Tuesday that it would not ban the group until the ruling is upheld by a higher tribunal.

Islam Tawfiq, an editor with the Freedom and Justice daily and a member of the Brotherhood, said the newspaper will continue to be published, and its edition for Thursday is ready for print. He said the newspaper staff had evacuated the office in June, days before mass protests against Islamist President Mohammed Morsi, under threat of attack.

The staff has been working elsewhere, he said, and only furniture, electrical appliances, and some documents were confiscated from the office. An order to ban the publication was issued a day after Morsi was ousted on July 4, he said, amid a crackdown on pro-Brotherhood media. The Brotherhood's TV channel, Misr25, has been off the air since then and was later banned by a court order.

But the state-owned Al-Ahram printers continued to publish the paper, he said, on condition it reduce its pages by half and print circulation down to 10,000 from 100,000. The orders came from security authorities, he said.

The shuttering of the newspaper appears to be part of an extensive crackdown on the Brotherhood since Morsi's ouster, after millions took to the streets demanding his resignation.

Tawfiq said the newspaper staff was informed by press syndicate officials that the office, which served as the historic headquarters of the Brotherhood under now deposed President Hosni Mubarak, was closed not as a political party property but as a property of the Brotherhood.

He said however that the ownership had changed following the official registration of the political party in 2011.

The paper was informed, he said, on Wednesday that prosecutors ordered the closure late last month, nearly three weeks before a court decision to ban the group and seize its assets.

A security official couldn't immediately explain the discrepancy between the two claims. He added that the paper had only rented parts of the building as its office. The security official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media.