Mohammed Mursi

Egypt's Mursi accused of deadly conspiracy with Hamas

Egypt braces for more violence after detention of president is ordered over ties with Islamists

PUBLISHED : Friday, 26 July, 2013, 4:40pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 27 July, 2013, 2:22am

Egypt's authorities yesterday formally detained Mohammed Mursi on suspicion of collaborating with Palestinian militants in murdering policemen and staging prison breaks, as tens of thousands of the deposed president's supporters and opponents staged rival rallies.

Mursi's detention, under a court order, for a renewable 15 days further ramped up tension as those applauding the decision and those angrily demanding the Islamist leader's reinstatement flooded various parts of Cairo.

The Arab world's most populous country has been convulsed by violence for the past three weeks, with some 200 people killed since Mursi's ousting by the army on July 3, many in clashes between his supporters and his opponents.

Clashes broke out in Cairo's Shubra neighbourhood in the early afternoon, leaving 10 people wounded as the two sides traded stones. Another 15 people were wounded in clashes in the Mediterranean city of Alexandria, the health ministry said. Police broke up the clashes with tear gas, state media reported.

But the overwhelming number of marches remained peaceful, with thousands of Mursi's supporters gathering in a north Cairo square before setting off through the streets.

At Cairo's Tahrir Square, tens of thousands of anti-Mursi supporters gathered in response to a call by the army chief General Abdelfattah Said El-Sisi on Egyptians to show their support for a security clampdown on "terrorism". The protesters waved Egyptian flags and held up posters of Sisi, who served as Mursi's defence minister before ousting him.

A leader of Mursi's Muslim Brotherhood, Essam el-Erian, said Islamists would respond to the detention of their leader with "peaceful marches".

The Brotherhood, however, reacted angrily to his detention order, saying it smacked of tactics used by the regime of Hosni Mubarak, Egypt's long-time strongman toppled in a popular uprising in 2011.

The accusations against Mursi include conspiring with Palestinian Hamas militants in attacks that killed policemen and prison breaks during the revolt against Mubarak, in which Mursi escaped along with other political inmates. He is also accused of "premeditated murder of some prisoners, officers and soldiers, and kidnapping officers and soldiers", state news agency Mena said.

Mursi is suspected of conspiring to "storm prisons and destroy them … allowing prisoners to escape, including himself."

Detention orders of the type ordered by the court are usually followed by moving the suspect to a prison. The military has so far kept his whereabouts secret to avoid attracting protests by his supporters.

Gehad el-Haddad, a Brotherhood spokesman, denounced the detention order, saying Mubarak's regime was "signalling 'we're back in full force'."

Hamas, an offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood which supports the Gaza militant group's fight against Israel, also denounced Mursi's detention.

Western nations are watching the crisis in Egypt with growing unease, fearing the military's vow to return the nation to democracy may be little more than a fig leaf to mask a prolonged power grab.

The US has decided not to term the army's overthrow of Mursi a "coup", which would trigger a freeze of US$1.5 billion in aid, a US official said in Washington yesterday.