CAIRO, Egypt – Mamoun el-Hodeiby, the leader of Egypt’s banned Muslim fundamentalist opposition group, has died, the group said Friday. He was 83.
El-Hodeiby served just 14 months as the general guide, or leader, of the Muslim Brotherhood, which advocates turning Egypt into a strict Islamic state and has been outlawed for 50 years. While once known for violence, the group says it now seeks change only through peaceful means within the political process and some of its members have been elected to Parliament as independents.
El-Hodeiby’s office said he died of natural causes late Thursday, but officials did not elaborate. The funeral was to be held later Friday.
El-Hodeiby was the group’s sixth general guide, and the son of its second general guide, Hassan el-Hodeiby, who ran the group from 1951 until his death in 1973.
Mamoun el-Hodeiby served as the Brotherhood’s deputy leader and spokesman in the 1980s, then was chosen as leader in November 2002 following the death of Mustafa Mashhour.
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The Muslim Brotherhood was founded in Egypt in 1928. It has grown into a vast movement with tens of thousands of supporters and branches in many other Arab nations.
The Brotherhood was outlawed in Egypt since 1954 and remains banned although it officially renounced violence in the 1970s.
The group had a short honeymoon with the government after the July 1952 revolution that ousted Egypt’s monarchy. But it was blamed for a failed attempt on the life of President Gamal Abdel-Nasser in 1954. Nasser’s regime executed and jailed scores of Brotherhood leaders.
El-Hodeiby was jailed in 1965 until the late President Anwar Sadat, Nasser’s successor, pardoned political prisoners in 1971. El-Hodeiby was then allowed to retain his government job as a leading judge of Cairo’s Appeals Court.
He worked for several years in Saudi Arabia and then returned to Egypt to win a seat in the Parliament together with another 35 Brotherhood candidates who won in the 1987 general elections.
In the 2000 legislative elections, Brotherhood-backed candidates won 17 out of 454 seats, becoming the largest opposition bloc in a parliament dominated by President Hosni Mubarak’s ruling National Democratic Party.
For the last few years, the government has been sporadically arresting Brotherhood members and putting some on trial in military courts. The group is often unofficially tolerated, however.
The Brotherhood’s guiding council, which includes about 90 members, is expected to choose a successor to el-Hodeiby after a three-day mourning period.
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