updated 2/28/2007 8:29:43 PM ET 2007-03-01T01:29:43

A court ordered a freeze Wednesday on the assets of 29 known financiers of the Muslim Brotherhood, Egypt's most powerful opposition movement.

The court upheld a decision by the state prosecutor last year, part of the government's push to undermine the fundamentalist movement financially. The Muslim Brotherhood is banned in Egypt, but it won nearly a fifth of parliamentary seats last year with its candidates running as independents.

About 300 Brotherhood members have been arrested since a December protest that prompted government claims that the movement was taking up arms. Fifty young members appeared at the protest in military-style black uniforms and balaclavas.

The 29, appearing in an area of the courtroom behind bars, erupted in protest when the decision was announced. About 200 relatives and supporters demonstrated outside.

"This is a dictatorial regime, this is an autocratic regime," shouted Khayrat el-Shater, the group's chief strategist and a main financier.

Others cried, "Oh history, witness this, they have stolen the Brotherhood's money!"

The group also included Hassan Malik, a millionaire businessman patron of the movement, and Mohammed Ali Bishr, the Brotherhood's executive.

40 group members face terror charges
The government has ordered 40 Brotherhood members, including el-Shater, tried before a military court on charges of money laundering and terrorism.

Abdel-Moneim Abdel-Maksoud, a lawyer for the group, called the asset freeze illegal and political.

"This is a message from the government, but it will not affect the Brotherhood's peaceful discourse," he said.

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