CAIRO (AFP) – An Egyptian court on Friday ordered Mohamed Morsi detained on suspicion of murdering policemen and collaborating with Palestinian militants in prison breaks, inflaming tensions before rival rallies by the deposed president’s supporters and opponents.
Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood reacted angrily to the detention order, saying it smacked of tactics used by the regime of Hosni Mubarak, Egypt’s long-time strongman toppled in a popular uprising in 2011.
Morsi, who has been held secretively by the military since it overthrew him on July 3, will now be interrogated during a renewable 15-day detention period, state news agency MENA said.
Accusations against him include conspiring with Palestinian Hamas militants in attacks that killed policemen and prison breaks during the revolt against Mubarak, in which Morsi escaped along with other political inmates.
Accusations include “premeditated murder of some prisoners, officers and soldiers, and kidnapping officers and soldiers,” MENA said.
He is also suspected of working with the militants to “storm prisons and destroy them..allowing prisoners to escape, including himself.”
Detention orders of the type ordered by the court are usually followed by moving the suspect to a prison. The military has so far kept his whereabouts secret to avoid attracting protests by his supporters.
Gehad El-Haddad, a spokesman for Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood denounced the detention order, saying Mubarak’s regime was “signalling ‘we’re back in full force’.”
A court had on June 23 said Hamas militants facilitated the escape of prisoners during the tumultuous 18-day uprising that forced out Mubarak.
Hamas, an offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood which supports the Gaza militant group’s fight against Israel, too denounced Morsi’s detention.
“Hamas condemns this move since it is based on the premise that the Hamas movement is hostile,” spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri told AFP.
“This is a dangerous development, which confirms that the current powers in Egypt are giving up on national causes and even using these issues to deal with other parties — first among them the Palestinian cause.”
The court order further ramped up tensions in Egypt as it braced for a showdown later Friday between Morsi’s supporters and his army-backed opponents, following weeks of bloodshed since his overthrow.
The military reportedly gave Morsi’s backers until the end of Friday to end sit-in protests they began after the army deposed him.