Donald Trump mulls terror designation for the Muslim Brotherhood

The White House has confirmed the designation is being discussed internally

U.S. President Donald Trump, right, speaks as Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi, Egypt's president, listens during a meeting at the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Tuesday, April 9, 2019. Trump downplayed his personnel moves at the Department of Homeland Security, saying he is fighting "bad laws" on immigration and obstruction in Congress. Photographer: Ron Sachs/Pool via Bloomberg

The United States government is considering designating the Muslim Brotherhood as a terrorist group, the White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders has said.

She said that such a designation was being discussed internally, but gave few other details. Unlike other groups considered to be a terror organisation by the US, the Muslim Brotherhood has dozens of chapters, loose affiliates, linked organisations and supporters across the Middle East, which could complicate the process and application.

"The president has consulted with his national security team and leaders in the region who share his concern, and this designation is working its way through the internal process," Ms Sanders told The New York Times.

The newspaper reported that US President Donald Trump had discussed the matter with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El Sisi during a visit on April 9, although Ms Sanders did not confirm this.

Mr El Sisi oversaw the military intervention to remove the divisive Brotherhood President Mohamed Morsi in 2013. The interim government who replaced Morsi banned the Brotherhood after violent clashes with authorities and terror attacks.

Also on Tuesday, an Egyptian court sentenced Hassan Malek, a prominent businessman with Brotherhood links, to life in prison for damaging the economy and funding banned groups.

Six others standing trial in the same case also received life sentences, including Malek’s son, three others received 10 years in prison and 14 were acquitted.

The Brotherhood is outlawed in numerous states across the Gulf and Middle East.

If the US does pass the designation, it could have wide-ranging implications for groups across the region who are affiliated to the Brotherhood. It could also further affect ties with Nato-ally Turkey given that President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is a vocal supporter of the movement.

Washington and Ankara have had strained relations for several months revolving around several issues from the jailing of American Pastor Andrew Brunson – who was released after extensive lobbying by the White House, including from Mr Trump – as well as Turkey’s plan to buy Russian S-400 air defence systems.

There have also been several arrests of members of local staff at the US mission in Turkey who Ankara accuses of being members of an outlawed group led by Fethullah Gulen, a preacher accused of leading a coup against Mr Erdogan who is living in exile in America. Ankara has demanded that Washington deport Mr Gulen but the US has declined.