27-year-old Mahmoud is a member of Ikhwan Muslimin (the Muslim Brotherhood, MB). The MB is the world’s first Islamist movement – it was founded in 1928 – and its early ideology is what inspires most of today’s Islamists, including al-Qa’eda.
The MB has always been, and remains, Egypt’s biggest and most popular opposition party. It is officially illegal, but is tolerated by Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak: the party is highly active in modern Egyptian politics, and, in fact, holds 88 of the 454 seats in the Maglis el-Shaab (the Egyptian parliament).
Members of the MB are among the many thousands of Egypt’s political activists who have been imprisoned – and tortured – over the years by the country’s presidents, all of whom have brutally oppressed any form of dissent.
In the past year, that oppression has been extended to those who try to voice their opinions online: a number of Egyptian bloggers, including members of the MB, have been arrested on trumped up charges and imprisoned (and, in some cases, tortured).
Mahmoud spent 46 days in Torah Prison in southern Cairo. He was first detained on charges of belonging to an illegal organization, organizing secret meetings with the aim of disturbing public order, and creating and possessing images that are destructive of public order.
The latter charge refers to a film clip taken by Mahmoud on his cellular phone – and later uploaded to Google Video – which apparently contains evidence that the Egyptian police tortured and killed a 12-year-old boy.
Mahmoud expects to be detained again in the near future.