Egypt officials arrest Muslim Brotherhood leader

A supporter of Egypt's former president Hosni Mubarak, holds a portrait of him outside the Egyptian police academy in Cairo, where Mubarak's trial was taking place. (AFP)

A supporter of Egypt's former president Hosni Mubarak, holds a portrait of him outside the Egyptian police academy in Cairo, where Mubarak's trial was taking place. (AFP)

Early on Tuesday, Badie was captured in an apartment in Nasr City, according to security officials and state television. That's where former president Mohamed Morsi's supporters held a six-week sit-in protest that was cleared by security forces last Wednesday.

The arrest of Mohammed Badie – the supreme leader of the Brotherhood, the Islamist group from which ousted president Mohammed Morsi hails – followed a chaotic day of bloodshed that saw 25 police officers killed in a militant ambush in Sinai.

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

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.

Meanwhile, two judicial officials said Egypt's former president Hosni Mubarak could walk free this week or next after a criminal court on Monday 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 kept in custody.

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

Sentence overturned
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.

Monday's ruling opened the possibility of freedom for the former president, the officials said, speaking on condition of anonymity because they were not authorised to speak to the media.

There will no longer be any grounds to hold him if a court accepts a petition by his lawyer requesting his release in a third case later this week or next.

Many analysts, however, expressed scepticism, saying the political cost of freeing the former leader, who was widely hated for widespread abuses and repression during his 29 years in power, could keep him in jail.

Leading rights campaigner Nasser Amin and rights lawyer Hoda Nasrallah said they did not expect Mubarak to be released, citing the country's delicate political and security situation as well as past incidents when authorities brought up new allegations to prevent his release.

Mubarak-era figures 
Amin complained that Egypt's penal law, which dates to the 1930s, has no adequate provisions to allow the conviction of perpetrators of crimes like ordering or failing to prevent the killing of protesters. Already, the overwhelming majority of court cases brought against police officers charged with killing protesters have ended in acquittals or suspended sentences.

"His release or detention will be a decision that weighs political and security conditions in the country," said Nasrallah.

Freeing Mubarak during one of the worst bouts of turmoil since his ouster would be a huge risk for the military-backed government. It could lend credibility to allegations that 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.

The development on Monday happened on a chaotic day of bloodshed that ended with the military's detention of the supreme leader of the Muslim Brotherhood, the Islamist group from which ousted president Mohammed Morsi hails. Underscoring the growing anger over Morsi's ouster, suspected Islamic militants ambushed two taxis carrying off-duty police officers 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 police officers 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. – Sapa-AP



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