Monday, August 19, 2013

Egypt: Leader of Muslim Brotherhood Mohammed Badie arrested in Cairo - The Independent

Police in Egypt have detained the supreme leader of the Muslim Brotherhood, according to security officials and state television.

They said Mohamed Badie was captured in a flat in the eastern Cairo district of Nasr City. That is where supporters of ousted Brotherhood president Mohamed Morsi held a six-week protest that was cleared by security forces on Wednesday.

The private ONTV network showed footage of a man the network said was Mr Badie after his arrest. In the footage, a sombre looking Mr Badie in an off-white Arab robe, or galabiyah, sits motionless on a sofa as a man in civilian clothes and carrying an assault rifle stands nearby.

Mr Badie and his powerful deputy Khairat el-Shater, who is in custody, go on trial later this month for their alleged role in the killing of eight protesters outside the Brotherhood's Cairo headquarters in June.

His arrest is a serious blow to the group at a time when authorities are cracking down on its leaders and mid-ranking officials, detaining scores of them across the country.

It came after a court ruling yesterday raised the possibility of jailed ex-president Hosni Mubarak walking free soon, a move that would fuel the unrest in the country after the autocratic leader's successor Mr Morsi was removed in a military coup.

Underscoring the growing anger, suspected Islamic militants ambushed two minibuses carrying off-duty policemen in Egypt's Sinai Peninsula, forcing the men to lie on the sand and shooting 25 of them dead.

"They were marked in advance by the attackers," said Ashraf Abdullah, who heads the police branch the victims belonged to. He said the assailants checked the IDs of the men, who were not in uniform, to ensure they were policemen before opening fire.

The brazen daylight attack raised fears that the strategic desert region bordering Israel and the Gaza Strip could be plunged into a full-fledged insurgency.

The 25 dead police officers were given a funeral with full military honours presided over by Interior Minister Mohammed Ibrahim, who is in charge of the police, and the army's chief of staff, General Sedki Sobhi.

Mubarak, 85, has been in detention since April 2011, two months after he was ousted in a revolution against his rule.

He was found guilty and sentenced to life in prison last year for failing to stop the killing of some 900 protesters in the 18-day uprising. His sentence was overturned on appeal and he is now being retried, along with his security chief and six top police commanders.

Two judicial officials said Mubarak could walk free this week or next, after a criminal court ordered his release in a corruption case in which he and his two sons were accused of embezzling funds for the maintenance of presidential palaces. His sons were ordered to be kept in custody.

That ruling, along with the fact that Mubarak had previously been ordered to be released over the killings of the protesters, opened the possibility of freedom for the former president, the officials said.

But freeing Mubarak during one of the worst bouts of turmoil since he was ousted would be a huge risk for the military-backed government.

It could lend credibility to allegations the mass protests that preceded the July 3 coup that toppled Egypt's first democratically elected leader were the work of Mubarak-era figures searching for a way to reinstate the former regime.

Last week, the military raided two protest camps of Mr Morsi's supporters in Cairo, killing hundreds of people and triggering a wave of violence that has left at least 1,000 people dead.

Human Rights Watch, in a report released yesterday, accused Egyptian security forces of using excessive force when they moved to clear the larger of the two camps.

The New York-based group said the assault amounted to the "most serious incident of mass unlawful killings in modern Egyptian history".

Mr Morsi has been held in an undisclosed location since he was ousted. Yesterday, prosecutors ordered his detention for 15 days in connection with allegations that he conspired to kill and torture protesters during mass demonstrations by the opposition outside his presidential palace in December 2012.

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