CAIRO — Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood colluded with Hamas and Hezbollah militants on the 2011 jailbreak of President Mohamed Morsi and other group members, a court said today in a hearing that may further inflame sentiment against the Islamist leader.
The court in the Suez Canal city of Ismailiya also asked prosecutors to seek Interpol’s help in arresting four Hamas and Hezbollah militants, and to investigate case files linked to a series of jailbreaks in the opening days of the uprising against longtime leader Hosni Mubarak. The prosecutors will then decide whether to file charges.
The court order, read out in a televised hearing, was issued as Morsi faces mounting opposition to his stewardship of the nation. Millions have signed petitions calling for his ouster ahead of June 30 demonstrations planned to coincide with his first anniversary in office. Among other things, critics accuse him of worrying more about cementing the Brotherhood’s power than attending to Egypt’s slowing economy and increasing polarization.
“The ruling weakens the position of the Muslim Brotherhood and strengthens the opposition stance,” Gamal Eid, the head of the Arabic Network for Human Rights Information, said by phone. “There’s no room for Morsi and his supporters now to talk about a legitimate president; now we’re talking about a president who’s facing official charges.”
The court’s findings follow reports in Egyptian media that implicated Hamas, the Palestinian militant group that rules the Gaza Strip, and Hezbollah, the Lebanese guerrilla movement, in the storming of Wadi Natroun prison and other facilities that held their followers, as well as jihadists, ultraconservative Muslim Salafis and Brotherhood officials.
Morsi and the 33 other Brotherhood officials had been arrested days before the prison was stormed, and were held under the emergency laws in place for much of Mubarak’s three-decade presidency. The president has said he and others were freed from prison by local residents, while Hamas has denied involvement.
“The timing of the decision raises many questions,” Ahmed Sobeia, a senior member of the Brotherhood’s political arm, the Freedom and Justice Party, said by phone. “There are some people who want to incite public opinion.”
In a show of support for the embattled president, tens of thousands of Morsi’s backers massed in a Cairo neighborhood on June 21.
The president and his Islamist supporters have rejected calls for his ouster, saying he was elected in democratic polls and any change must come through the ballot box.
The U.S. considers Hamas and Hezbollah to be terrorist groups. Hezbollah’s involvement in Syria’s civil war on the side of the government led Morsi earlier this month to suspend relations with Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad’s administration.
The court’s moves today add a new element to the political tumult engulfing Egypt.
A grassroots campaign is under way to collect 15 million signatures calling for Morsi’s ouster ahead of the June 30 rallies -- the same number of votes he received to become Egypt’s first democratically elected leader. Egypt’s opposition also announced the start today of a week-long series of protests leading to the June 30 rallies, in a final push to shore up support against Morsi.
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