Egypt tries Morsi in third case

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IOL pic nov27 egypt morsi file

Reuters

Ousted Egyptian president Mohamed Morsi. File picture: Amr Abdallah Dalsh

CAIRO - Egypt referred to trial deposed President Mohamed Morsi and 129 others, including members of Hamas and Hezbollah, on Saturday on murder and other charges related to a mass jail break during the 2011 uprising against Hosni Mubarak.

These are the third set of charges brought against Morsi since he was ousted by the army in July amid street protests against his rule and they intensify the relentless repression of his Muslim Brotherhood group in the months that followed.

Earlier this week, the prosecutor ordered Morsi and 35 other Brotherhood leaders to stand trial in a separate case that charges them with plotting with foreigners including Hamas and Hezbollah to carry out a terrorist conspiracy against Egypt.

Those charges, described as “risible” by the Brotherhood, could result in the death penalty for Morsi and his colleagues.

On Thursday, U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel expressed concern about the charges against Morsi and other Brotherhood leaders in a phone call with army chief General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, the man who ousted Egypt's first freely elected leader.

The security forces have killed hundreds of Brotherhood supporters in the streets and arrested thousands more. The government accuses the group, previously Egypt's best-organised political and religious movement, of turning to violence and terrorism - charges the Brotherhood denies.

In a three-page statement, investigating judge Hassan al-Samir described the new case, relating to prison breaks during the anti-Mubarak revolt, as “the most dangerous crime of terrorism the country had witnessed”.

Samir said he had uncovered a “terrorist plan” hatched by the Brotherhood long ago and carried out with foreign players including Lebanon's Shi’a militant Hezbollah movement and the Palestinian Islamist Hamas group which rules the Gaza Strip.

Morsi was one of those who escaped from prison after being rounded up with other Brotherhood leaders after the 18-day uprising that toppled Mubarak broke out on January 25, 2011.

In a telephone interview with Al Jazeera immediately after his escape, Morsi said the prison had been opened by “residents” and that he and other Brotherhood leaders with him had not fled.

Samir's statement did not name the accused Hezbollah or Hamas members, but a judicial source said 68 belonged to Hamas.

Morsi and his comrades, including Brotherhood leader Mohamed Badie, were charged with killing and kidnapping policemen, attacking police facilities and carrying out the prison break.

After protests against Mubarak began, the prosecutor charged, the Brotherhood, extremist groups and more than 800 militants who had infiltrated from Gaza staged attacks on police before assaulting three prisons to release their allies.

At least 50 police and prisoners were killed in the raids in which at least 20,000 criminals escaped, Samir's statement said.

The accused were also charged with kidnapping four policemen and holding them in the Gaza Strip. It also said the men had “appropriated animal and poultry livestock” from the prisons.

The judicial source said Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi, a prominent cleric based in Qatar, was among the accused.

A Hezbollah operative jailed in Egypt was one of those who escaped during the chaos in 2011. He then fled to Lebanon.

Reuters


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