Egyptian authorities yesterday arrested two more Islamist figures: a top ally of the Muslim Brotherhood as he reportedly tried to flee to neighboring Libya disguised as a woman, and a spokesman for the Islamist group on his way to catch a flight out of the country.
The arrests are the latest in a crackdown by Egypt’s new military-backed leaders against the Muslim Brotherhood group, from which ousted Egyptian president Mohammed Morsi hails.
They came just a day after authorities detained the Brotherhood’s supreme leader and spiritual guide, Mohammed Badie, dealing a serious blow to the embattled movement that is now struggling to keep up street protests against the military’s overthrow of Morsi. Hundreds, including the group’s former lawmakers, politicians, and field operatives are already in custody.
Morsi and his top aides have been held at an unknown location, incommunicado since the July 3 military coup.
Cleric Safwat Hegazy, a fiery Salafi preacher and top Brotherhood ally, was captured yesterday at a checkpoint near the Siwa Oasis in eastern Egypt and close to the border with Libya, according to the state-run MENA news agency.
The cleric is wanted on charges of instigating violence.
According to the Web site of the state-run al-Ahram daily, Hegazy had shaved off most of his beard, dyed his hair and covered his face with a niqab, a head-to-toe woman’s dress that leaves only a slit for the eyes uncovered.
Egyptian state TV aired a photograph showing him sitting next to army soldiers, dressed in white robe with the new shaven look.
MENA said Hegazy, who joined ranks with the Muslim Brotherhood in campaigning for Morsi’s presidential bid, showed no resistance during his arrest and was flown to a detention center in Cairo.
Hegazy was a key speaker at the main pro-Morsi sit-in that was dispersed by security troops on Wednesday last week in Cairo’s Nasr City suburb. He told protesters to hold their ground and promised to deal blows to the military.
He is wanted on charges of instigating deadly clashes last month with security forces outside a Republican Guard building that killed 54 people, most of them Morsi supporters.
An Egyptian security official said Mourad Ali, a spokesman for the Brotherhood’s political party, was detained at the Cairo airport, trying to catch a flight to Italy. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media.
Meanwhile, former Egyptian interim vice president Mohamed ElBaradei is being sued for a “betrayal of trust” over his decision to quit the army-backed government in protest at its bloody crackdown on the Brotherhood.
The case points to the prospect of a new wave of politically driven lawsuits being brought to court following the downfall of Morsi, whose supporters brought a raft of cases against opposition figures during his year in power.
The cases, many of them for “insulting the president,” have been criticised by anti-government activists as a form of political intimidation.
ElBaradei’s case, brought by an Egyptian law professor, will be heard in a Cairo court on Sept. 19, judicial sources said on Tuesday.
ElBaradei, the former head of the UN nuclear agency and co-leader of the secular National Salvation Front grouping, was the most prominent liberal to endorse the military’s overthrow of Morsi on July 3 following mass protests.
He resigned on Aug. 14 after security forces attacked the protest camps set up by Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood supporters in Cairo, killing hundreds of people.
Additional reporting by Reuters