Egypt’s first freely elected president, Mohammed Morsi, goes on trial Monday on charges of inciting murder during December clashes at the presidential palace in Cairo. The trial is part of a wide-scale crackdown on his Muslim Brotherhood by the military-backed government after the nation’s top general removed Morsi on July 3 following nationwide protests.
Here is a look at some of key history of the Muslim Brotherhood group:
— The Muslim Brotherhood group was founded in 1928 by a school teacher-turned-Islamic ideologue Hassan al-Banna in the Suez Canal city of Ismailia. He advocated spreading Islam by from raising up a “Muslim individual, then a Muslim family, then a Muslim society” based on Islamic teachings to pave the way for the establishment of a worldwide Islamic state that knows no borders.
— Its motto is “Islam is the solution” and its emblem has two crossed swords above a Quran on a green field.
— The Brotherhood has a strong hierarchical structure, starting with the top leader — called the “general guide,” whom members vow to “hear and obey”— down through regional administrators to the base of small “families” made up of small numbers of members. The General Guidance Bureau serves as its main executive body, and a body known as the Shura Council serves as a form of general assembly.
— It also runs a large network of charities, hospitals and social services that help build its grass-roots support. Businesses owned by Brotherhood members help finance the movement.
— While based in Egypt, the Brotherhood has branches in dozens of countries, including the Palestinian militant group Hamas, now ruling the Gaza Strip. Its Tunisian arm dominated elections there after the 2011 ouster of autocrat Zine El Abidine Ben Ali.
— The Brotherhood in its early years had an armed wing, the “Special Organization,” to fight British colonialists and Israelis. It was implicated in assassination of Egyptian Prime Minister Mahmoud Fahmi al-Nokrashi in 1948 after he outlawed the group. Two months later, al-Banna was assassinated in Cairo.
— After Egypt’s 1952 military coup, the Brotherhood was accused of an assassination attempt against President Gamal Abdel-Nasser. Authorities responded by executing prominent Brotherhood ideologue Sayyed Qutb and imprisoning thousands of other members in what the group calls its “first agony.”
— After nearly a decade in prison and exile, the group witnessed a revival in the 1970s under then-President Anwar Sadat, who tolerated the Brotherhood and used it as a counterweight to leftist opponents. The group formally foreswore violence. Youth groups became a pool for new cadres. After the 1979 peace accords with Israel, Sadat was assassinated by Islamic militants, many influenced by Qutb’s hard-line teachings.
— Under the nearly 30-year rule of autocrat Hosni Mubarak, the Brotherhood saw various phases of toleration and repression. It struck deals to enjoy a margin of freedom that allowed it to create its networks. But when authorities felt it had gone too far, they would launch crackdowns, arresting members and trying leaders before military courts. Though still outlawed, the Brotherhood became the country’s strongest opposition political group, running candidates in elections as independents, and winning a fifth of parliament’s seats in 2005.
— After Mubarak’s ouster in 2011, the Brotherhood formed a political party for the first time, the Freedom and Justice Party. It emerged the biggest winner in parliament election, using its grass-root network to bring out voters. It took almost half the lower house’s seats, while other Islamists took another quarter of the seats, and together they held nearly all the seats in the upper house. After Morsi’s election victory with just under 52 percent of the vote, Brotherhood members dominated his government and other posts. Critics accused the Brotherhood’s leadership of being the true decision-makers for Morsi, a claim his administration denied.