Murder, jailbreak case against Mursi

December 22, 2013 - 6:16:12 am

Muslim Brotherhood supporters gesture near burning tyres during clashes with riot police in Cairo.

CAIRO: Egypt’s deposed Islamist president, Mohammed Mursi, and 129 others including members of Hamas and Hezbollah, were referred to trial yesterday on murder and other charges related to a mass jailbreak during the 2011 uprising against Hosni Mubarak.

These are the third set of charges brought against Mursi 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 Mursi 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 Mursi and his colleagues.

On Thursday, US Defence Secretary Chuck Hagel expressed concern about the charges against Mursi 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.

Sisi is widely seen as the person most likely to win a presidential election expected next year were he to run. The next stage in the army’s transition plan is a mid-January referendum on a new constitution.

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 Shia militant Hezbollah movement and the Palestinian Islamist Hamas group which rules the Gaza Strip.

Mursi 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 he left prison, Mursi said the jail had been opened by locals with no instructions from Brotherhood leaders. He said he and other Brotherhood leaders had not fled and were looking for representatives of the prosecution to report what had happened.

Samir’s statement did not name the accused Hezbollah or Hamas members. A judicial source said 68 of them belonged to Hamas. At least one Hezbollah operative jailed in Egypt escaped during the chaos in 2011. He then fled to Lebanon.

An ideological cousin of the Muslim Brotherhood, Hamas had been part of an alliance including Hezbollah until the Arab Spring uprising redrew the political map of the region. Mursi’s opponents demonised the Palestinian group during his year in office, accusing it of scheming against Egypt.

MASS ESCAPE

Mursi 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 said, 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 charges brought against Mursi and the Brotherhood this week formally implicate them in violence against security forces in the Sinai Peninsula, the desert territory bordering Israel where militant attacks spiked after Mursi’s overthrow.

Some 200 soldiers and policemen have been killed since then.

REUTERS

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