An investigating judge has ordered the detention of Egypt’s ousted president over alleged contacts with Hamas to help in his escape from prison in 2011, the official state news agency reported yesterday, in the first official word on former Egyptian president Mohamed Morsi’s status since he was overthrown by the military on July 3.
The announcement came hours before mass protests were set to take place across the nation in response to a call by Egyptian Armed Forces Commander-in-Chief General Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi for a show of popular support for his anticipated crackdown on Morsi’s supporters and radical Islamists loyal to the ousted leader, who have been attacking security forces in the strategic Sinai Peninsula.
The Muslim Brotherhood, the Islamist group from which Morsi hails, also called for mass protests yesterday.
The rival rallies and the announcement that Morsi faces accusations that could carry the death penalty on conviction further raised the specter of violence between the two camps.
The military and the police have pledged to protect protesters yesterday, and the army deployed tens of thousands of troops across the country, supported by armor and helicopters.
The MENA news agency said Morsi has been detained for 15 days pending the completion of the investigation into the accusations. His detention can be extended as the inquiry continues. The news agency indicated that Morsi has already been interrogated.
Senior Brotherhood official Essam al-Erian rejected the detention order, saying Morsi 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 Morsi 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 Morsi’s predecessor, former Egyptian president 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.