LATEST: Egypt — Prosecution Extends Detention of Ousted President Morsi
Featured Image: Head of Armed Forces Abdel Fattah El-Sisi, speaking on Sunday
At least 36 detained members of the Muslim Brotherhood died in Egypt on Sunday, but there is a heated dispute over the circumstances.
Egyptian security forces said that they had aborted an escape attempt by more than 600 supporters of ousted president Mohamed Morsi at Abu Zaabal prison, north of Cairo.
State news agency MENA claimed an armed group attacked the prison, as a vehicle transferring some of the detained Muslim Brotherhood supporters was arriving. Some of the attackers were shot and some of the prisoners inside the vehicle suffocated from tear gas and were being treated.
The Interior Ministry later said 36 men were killed by asphyxiation from tear gas and “crowding”.
Al Jazeera English, quoting an unnamed source, said the prisoners staged a fight and then took a police officer hostage when the van pulled over. Other police then fired into the van, killing those inside.
The Anti Coup Alliance, which includes the Brotherhood, said it had “obtained evidence of the assassination of at least 38 anti-coup detainees…with live ammunition and tear gas fired from windows”. It put “full criminal responsibility on leaders of the 3rd of July coup, beginning with [head of the armed forces] Abdel-Fattah el-Sisi and Minister of Interior Muhammad Ibrahim Kamel” and demanded an “international investigation”.
Meanwhile, General Sisi used an hour-long press conference to deliver the stern message that his forces would not stand by amid violence:
Egyptian prosecutors have ordered a 15-day extension to the detention of deposed President Mohamed Morsi, for alleged involvement in violent attacks on demonstrators outside the Presidential Palace in December 2012.
Morsi, overthrown on July 3, faces charges of murder, attempted murder, spreading false news to influence judicial investigations, show of force, and detention, intimidation, and torture of citizens.
Morsi has already been accused of collaboration with Palestinian group Hamas in a prison escape during the Janurary-February 2011 uprising against the Mubarak regime. Those charges include attacking police stations and killing and abducting police officers and prisoners.
Morsi was put under de facto house arrest on July 3 and later transferred to an undisclosed location.
Prosecutors also ordered the arrest of another 260 anti-regime protesters on charges of inciting violence during Saturday’s “siege” by security forces of Fateh Mosque in Cairo.
About 700 demonstrators had taken sanctuary in the mosque after violence that killed scores of people in nearby Ramses Square. Police cleared them from the building late Saturday after a day which included sporadic exchanges of gunfire.
The 260 detainees are accused of forming an illegal organisation, inciting murder, and inciting the breaking into Azbakeya police station in Cairo’s Ramses Square.
The Interior Ministry announced on Saturday that 1,004 protesters had been arrested in previous days.
Two Egyptian journalists have been killed in Damanhur by security forces.
The journalists were returned from an interview with an Egyptian official after the nightly curfew when forces fired upon their car.
Meanwhile, Al Jazeera Arabic reporter Abdallah Elshamy will be held in detention for another 15 days.
Elshamy was arrested last Wednesday, during the clashes in which hundreds of Egyptians died, and faces charges of inciting murder and sectarian violence.
Al Jazeera Arabic’s offices were raided and closed last Friday.
Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal has said that Arab and Islamic countries will step in to help Egypt if Western nations cut aid.
“To those who have announced they are cutting their aid to Egypt, or threatening to do that, (we say that) Arab and Muslim nations are rich…and will not hesitate to help Egypt,” the Foreign Minister said.
Foreign ministers of the European Union will hold emergency talks on Wednesday to review the bloc’s relations with Cairo. On Sunday, European Commission President José Manuel Barroso and European Council President Herman Van Rompuy warned the mlilitary and interim Government that there is “no alternative to dialogue” to end the “extremely worry” surge in violence and loss of life.
Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and UAE have already promised $12 billion to Cairo following the military’s overthrow of President Mohamed Morsi on July 3.
Reuters have more details on the earlier sensational report that an attorney for former President Hosni Mubarak claimed his client would be released from prison.
The lawyer Fareed el-Deeb, said that corruption charges against Mubarak would be settled soon.
“All we have left is a simple administrative procedure that should take no more than 48 hours. He should be freed by the end of the week,” Deeb told Reuters.
Reuters also cite a “judicial source” who did not confirm that Mubarak would be released, but said he would spend another two weeks behind bars before judicial authorities made a final decision in the outstanding case against him.
Reuters have reported — but given no further details — that the lawyer of former President Hosni Mubarak said he expects Mubarak to be released this week.
Hosni Mubarak's lawyer expects the former President to be freed this week http://t.co/j6LDwgahtk
— Reuters Live (@ReutersLive) August 19, 2013
Mubarak is being held at Tora Prison on the southern outskirts of Cairo – the same facility where senior members of ousted President Mohamed Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood have been held since they were arrested in a crackdown by the interim government.
According to Reuters, Mubarak’s lawyer claimed prosecutors have dropped corruption charges against him.
The report comes after a judge on Saturday ordered the adjournment until August 25 of the retrial of Mubarak over charges that he was involved in the killing of over 800 anti-regime protesters during the 2011 revolution.
In the bloodiest incident amid escalating violence in the Sinai Peninsula, 24 police officers have been killed by insurgents according to Egyptian officials.
Medical sources and officials said the police were in two buses which were attacked near Rafah on the Gaza border.
Three policemen were also injured.
Al Masry Al Youm has published the names of the victims.
Islamists and Bedouins have been carrying out regular attacks on security forces and pipelines in the Peninsula, between the Suez Canal and Egypt’s borders with Gaza and Israel.
An image of the executed men (Warning: Graphic)
صورة التقطت لضحايا الهجوم على مجندي الامن المركزي في رفح اليوم، يبدو منها ان الحادث كان اعداما بدم بارد. pic.twitter.com/idI95u96NZ
— Haitham Tabei تابعي (@Haithamtabei) August 19, 2013
The Interior ministry has banned the formation of informal security committees set up during recent clashes between supporters and opponents of the regime.
The Ministry said it was protecting citizens from “illegal practices sometimes committed by the committees”, urging them to observe the overnight curfew imposed for the next month throughout much of Egypt.
The committees have been accused of violence against anti-regime protesters. The Interior Ministry, however, cited cases of theft as the reason for concern.
Amid claims from Egyptian rights groups that up to 47 churches have been attacked, robbed, and/or burned since last Wednesday, Kristen Chick of the Christian Science Monitor reports from Al Nazla, northwest of the city of Fayoum:
On the morning of Aug. 14, the tension erupted. In Cairo, the police attacked two protest camps full of Morsi supporters, using live ammunition and killing hundreds. When the news reached Al Nazla, a local mosque broadcast through its loudspeakers that Christians were attacking the protesters, say residents. Hundreds of villagers marched on the Saint Virgin Mary Church. They broke down the gate and flooded the compound, shouting “Allahu akbar” and “Islam is the solution,” according to Christian neighbors.
“First they stole the valuable things, and then they torched the place,” says Sami Awad, a church member who lives across the narrow dirt alley from the church. “Whatever they couldn’t carry, they burned.”