Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood announced late on Saturday it will field its deputy chairman, Khairat al-Shater, as a candidate in the upcoming presidential election.
The Brotherhood’s supreme guide, Mohammed Badie, announced Shater’s nomination in a news conference and read out a brief statement from Shater, who was not present.
“After it was decided to field my name in the presidential elections, I can only accept the decision of the Brotherhood. I will therefore resign from my position as deputy chairman,” Shater’s statement said.
The Brotherhood’s political arm, the Freedom and Justice Party (FJP), also announced the decision on its Facebook page on Saturday.
“The parliamentary bloc of the Freedom and Justice Party will nominate Khairat al-Shater as a candidate for the presidency,” the FJP said.
Al Arabiya TV earlier reported that the Muslim Brotherhood’s Guidance Office, the highest-level body of the Islamist organization, has voted by 56 percent in support of Shater’s nomination.
The Islamist group, banned under the rule of Hosni Mubarak who was ousted by a popular uprising last year, has gone on to dominate parliament and a panel tasked with drafting the country’s new constitution.
Reputed to be the organization’s chief whip and known to be one of its key financiers, Shater holds a lot of sway over Egypt’s most powerful and most organized political group, its members have said.
He joined the Islamist group in 1981 after years as a student activist, and was promoted to its executive bureau, known as the Guidance Council, in 1995.
Shater has been jailed several times, most recently in 2006 when a military court sentenced him to seven years for terrorism and money laundering, after his assets were frozen.
While in jail, Shater managed Brotherhood affairs and oversaw his business empire from his prison cell, according to press reports.
He was released last March, just a month after Mubarak was toppled.
Shater’s business empire is said to be the main source of funding for the Islamist group.
Born in on May 4, 1950 in the Nile Delta province of Daqahliya, Shater earned a degree in engineering from Alexandria University and a master’s in engineering from Mansura University.
In a 2005 op-ed in Britain’s Guardian newspaper, Shater urged readers “not to be afraid” of the Muslim Brotherhood, after the banned group clinched a fifth of the seats in parliament under Mubarak by fielding candidates as “independents.”
“The success of the Muslim Brotherhood should not frighten anybody: we respect the rights of all religious and political groups,” he wrote.