Egypt accuses Mursi in 2011 jailbreak

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Egypt accuses Mursi in 2011 jailbreak

Egyptian prosecutors accused ousted President Mohammed Mursi on Friday of conspiring with the Palestinian militant group Hamas and murder in his 2011 escape from prison that left 14 guards dead. The development fueled the likelihood of clashes as tens of thousands of supporters and opponents of the Islamist leader massed for rival rallies.

By (AP)

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Published: Fri 26 Jul 2013, 8:35 PM

Last updated: Tue 7 Apr 2015, 5:47 PM

The surprise announcement about Mursi comes as Egypt’s divisions deepen, with Islamists stepping up their campaign against military chief Gen. Abdel-Fatah El-Sissi and state media whipping up sentiments against the Islamists.

It was the first word on Mursi’s legal status since he was toppled in a popularly backed July 3 military coup. He has been detained incommunicado, and the start of legal proceedings could halt repeated calls by Western governments to free him or file charges.

Mursi’s Muslim Brotherhood swiftly rejected the charges as it mobilised supporters for mass demonstrations in Cairo and other cities. Tens of thousands of his opponents, meanwhile, also gathered nationwide in response to a call by El Sissi.

El Sissi said he was seeking a show of popular support for his anticipated crackdown on Mursi supporters and radical Islamists loyal to the ousted leader who have been attacking security forces in the strategic Sinai Peninsula, but fears of violence were high as past demonstrations have led to fierce clashes between the groups. Nearly 200 people have been killed in the latest crisis, most of them Mursi supporters.

The military and the police have pledged to protect Friday’s protesters, and the army deployed tens of thousands of troops across the country, supported by armored vehicles and helicopters.

The Muslim Brotherhood has been demanding that Mursi, Egypt’s first freely elected president, be reinstated. His ouster in a military coup followed days of nationwide demonstrations, when millions turned out to demand his resignation after just one year in office.

Egypt’s military, which views Hamas as a threat to Egypt’s national security, has been holding Mursi in an undisclosed location since deposing him.

The MENA news agency said Mursi has now been formally detained for 15 days pending the completion of the investigation into the accusations, but it did not say whether Mursi would be moved now to a regular detention facility where he could receive family visits. His detention can be extended as the inquiry continues. The news agency indicated that Mursi has already been interrogated.

Senior Brotherhood official Essam El Erian rejected the detention order, saying Mursi continues to enjoy immunity as the nation’s “legitimate” president, and he can stand trial only as part of a constitutional process that allows that.

The detention order, he wrote on his official Facebook page, “lays bare the fascist nature of military rule ... our response will be with millions in peaceful rallies in the squares.”

The case against Mursi is rooted in the mass jailbreak of more than 30 Muslim Brotherhood leaders from a prison northwest of Cairo during the 2011 popular uprising that toppled Mursi’s predecessor, Hosni Mubarak. There have been many reports in the Egyptian media that the Brotherhood collaborated with Hamas, its Palestinian wing, and Hezbollah militants in Lebanon to arrange the breakout.

Muslim Brotherhood officials have said they were aided by local residents in breaking out of prison, not foreigners. However, a court in the Suez Canal city of Ismailia has heard testimonies from prison officials and intelligence officers strongly indicating that Morsi and his Brotherhood colleagues were freed when gunmen led by Hamas operatives stormed the Wadi El Natroun prison.

Hamas has consistently denied any involvement. On Friday a spokesman for the militant group, Sami Abu Zuhri, condemned Mursi’s detention order. “The Egyptian decision is an attempt to drag Hamas into the Egyptian conflict,” he said. “We call on the Arab League to bear its responsibility in facing the incitement against Hamas.”

Mursi’s only account of his jailbreak came in a frantic phone call he made to Al Jazeera Mubasher TV moments after being freed. “From the noises we heard ... It seemed to us there were (prisoners) attempting to get out of their cells and break out into the prison yard, and the prison authorities were trying to regain control and fired tear gas,” Mursi said in the call.

By the time they got out, the prison was empty, and there was no sign of a major battle, he said.

Other Brotherhood leaders gave similar accounts of the jailbreak, in which at least 14 members of the security forces were killed and the jail’s documents and archives destroyed.

The MENA report said Mursi was being investigated over allegations of collaborating with Hamas “to carry out anti-state acts, attacking police stations, army officers and storming prisons, setting fire to one prison and enabling inmates to flee, including himself, as well as premeditated killing of officers, soldiers and prisoners.”

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