CAIRO — An Egyptian court on Monday ordered the banning of the Muslim Brotherhood and the confiscation of its assets in a dramatic escalation of a crackdown by the military-backed government against supporters of the ousted president Mohammed Morsi.
The ruling opens the door for a wider crackdown on the vast network of the Brotherhood, which includes social organizations that have been key for building the group’s grassroots support and helping its election victories.
The verdict banned the group itself — including the official association it registered earlier this year — and ‘‘any institution branching out of it or . . . receiving financial support from it,’’ according to the court ruling, made public on MENA, Egypt’s official state news agency.
The judge at the Cairo Court for Urgent Matters also ordered the ‘‘confiscation of all the group’s money, assets, and buildings’’ and said an independent committee should be formed by the Cabinet to manage the money until final court orders are issued. The verdict can be appealed.
The Brotherhood was outlawed for most of its 85 years in existence. After the 2011 ouster of autocrat Hosni Mubarak, it emerged to work freely, opening a formal headquarters and forming a political party for the first time. It rose to power in a string of post-Mubarak elections.
Still, its legal status remained hazy. In March, it registered as a nongovernmental organization, but its entire network was not brought under the association’s aegis.
‘‘This is a totalitarian decision,’’ a leading Brotherhood member, Ibrahim Moneir, said in an interview with Qatar-based Al-Jazeera Mubasher Misr TV. ‘‘You are losers, and it [the Brotherhood] will remain with God’s help, not by the orders by the judiciary of el-Sissi,’’ he added, referring to military chief General Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi, who led the overthrow of Morsi on July 3.
The military removed Morsi after mass protests by millions demanding he step down, accusing him of power abuse and allowing the Brotherhood and others to monopolize rule.
Since Morsi’s ouster, security forces have arrested some 2,000 of the group’s members, including many of its senior figures and a large swath of its middle ranks. Morsi, held in secret military detention, faces trial on charges of inciting the killing of protesters during his year in office.
The Brotherhood’s top leader and his deputies are also on trial, and senior figures are expected to be referred to courts soon. Already the assets of many have been ordered frozen. Officials and sympathetic media accuse the group of fomenting a wave of violence in retaliation for the coup.
The Brotherhood and its Islamist allies have continued protests demanding Morsi’s reinstatement — but the rallies have grown weaker under the heavy crackdown. The group insists its protests are nonviolent. However, dozens of churches and police stations came under attack by suspected supporters of Morsi and armed Morsi supporters exchanged gunfire and clashed with security forces in two Islamist strongholds.
The ruling — if upheld in later stages — would give authorities a legal basis for moving against the Brotherhood’s network of businesses, schools, hospitals, and charities that have been the foundation of its political power. That network provided it with financing and recruiting and built popular grass-roots support.
Built while the group was underground, the links throughout the network are often unclear, with individual Brotherhood members holding ownership.