• Egypt court: Brotherhood members planned jailbreak
     | June 24,2013

    Protesters chant slogans against Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi at a court 86 miles from Cairo, Egypt, Sunday. An Egyptian court on Sunday said Muslim Brotherhood members conspired with Hamas, Hezbollah and local militants to storm a prison in 2011 and free 34 Brotherhood leaders, including Morsi.

    CAIRO — An Egyptian court said Sunday that Muslim Brotherhood members conspired with Hamas, Hezbollah and local militants to storm a prison in 2011 and free 34 Brotherhood leaders, including the future President Mohammed Morsi.

    The court statement read by judge Khaled Mahgoub named two members of Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood among the alleged conspirators in the attack on Wadi el-Natroun prison on Jan. 29, 2011.

    It is the first statement by a court holding members of the three Islamist groups responsible for jailbreaks during the chaos of Egypt’s 2011 uprising. Two other prisons where Palestinian Hamas and Lebanese Hezbollah members were held were also attacked.

    Morsi and other Brotherhood leaders have maintained that they were freed by local residents. Hamas, the Palestinian chapter of the Brotherhood, has denied involvement in the attacks on prisons.

    The Freedom and Justice party, the political arm of the Brotherhood, said Sunday’s statement was “void and illegal.” It posted on its Twitter account that Mahgoub “will end like any other judge who did not respect the law or the constitution.”

    Still, the court statement is likely to further fuel opposition to Morsi’s rule just a week before his opponents plan mass protests to try to force him out of office. The June 30 demonstrations would mark the anniversary of his taking office in 2012 as Egypt’s first freely elected leader.

    The past year has seen growing polarization as Egypt struggles with a host of problems that many accuse Morsi of failing to effectively tackle. They include surging crime, rising prices, power cuts, fuel shortages and unemployment.

    Pressure on Morsi grew on Sunday when Wael Ghonim, the best known youth figure of the 2011 revolution, asked Morsi to step down. In a video message posted on the Internet on Sunday, Ghonim accused Morsi of reneging on promises he made ahead of his 2012 election.

    The president, he said, must act like a “patriotic Egyptian” and resign to prevent “strife.”

    Many Egyptians have been alarmed by statements from Morsi supporters vowing to “smash” the protesters. Several hard-line Islamists have declared the protesters infidels whose killing is justified.

    Morsi’s supporters say his opponents should try to remove him through the ballot box, and attempting to force him out is an attack on electoral legitimacy.

    Also Sunday, a member of a radical Islamist group appointed by Morsi as governor of the ancient city of Luxor resigned in the face of daily protests outside his office.

    Adel el-Khayat is a member of the Construction and Development party, the political arm of the Gamaa Islamiya, which waged an armed insurgency against the state starting in 1992 and attacked police, Coptic Christians and tourists.

    In November 1997, gunmen from the group attacked tourists at Luxor’s 3,400-year-old Hatshepsut Temple, killing 58. More than 1,200 people died in the campaign of violence by the group, which later renounced violence, and another militant organization, Islamic Jihad.

    “I discussed with my brothers from the Construction and Development party, and we agreed that I should present my resignation as Luxor’s governor because we don’t want bloodshed,” he said in a statement. “We cannot accept the shedding of even one drop of blood for a position that we never wanted.”

    Morsi has not spoken publicly about his escape from Wadi el-Natroun since he gave an account of what happened in a frantic phone call he made to Al-Jazeera Mubasher TV moments after being freed.

    “From the noises we heard ... It seemed to us there were (prisoners) attempting to get out of their cells and break out into the prison yard and the prison authorities were trying to regain control and fired tear gas,” Morsi said in the call.

    The prison breaks took place during the 18-day popular uprising that toppled the 29-year regime of autocrat Hosni Mubarak. The breaks led to a flood of some 23,000 criminals onto the streets, fueling a crime wave that continues to this day.

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