CAIRO (AP) — A senior Muslim Brotherhood leader said Thursday that the group was prepared, if asked, to hand over to authorities members for questioning over a recent assault on activists and reporters.
Mahmoud Hussein told reporters that the Brotherhood, of which President Mohammed Morsi is a longtime leader, rejects violence and will hold its members accountable if they are found guilty of beating protesters who were spray-painting graffiti and trying to plaster posters on the walls of the group's headquarters in Cairo.
However, he refused to apologize for the March 16 assault, saying the building's guards were provoked by the protesters and alleging that local reporters at the scene were involved in the demonstration.
The fundamentalist movement that has become Egypt's most powerful political force after the ouster of authoritarian leader Hosni Mubarak has frequently been criticized for what is seen as heavy-handed behavior against secular and liberal protesters who accuse it of trying to usurp too much power.
The skirmishes began when the Brotherhood supporters tried to stop the protesters, who responded with taunts and hostile chants, according to videos posted on social networks.
Other clips show the Brotherhood's members, mostly bearded with a heavy build, punching and slapping the protesters, and hitting them with sticks. Those assaulted included a woman, who was slapped to the ground.
Diaa Rashwan, the newly elected head of the journalists' union, has lodged a complaint over the assault on the reporters with the attorney general, the country's top prosecutor.
Activists plan a protest Friday outside the Brotherhood headquarters over the assault.
Hussein said the guards' actions were in defense of the building and the group would only apologize if the courts convict its members of assault.
Hussein said the police bore the primary responsibility for protecting public and private properties, but vowed the Brotherhood will use all means to defend against attacks on its offices. At least a dozen offices belonging to the group were attacked late last year at the height of the latest bout of political crisis.