Egypt to try Brotherhood members on torture charge

Hamza Hendawi ,AP

CAIRO (AP) — Two Muslim Brotherhood officials in the northern Egyptian city of Damanhour have been ordered to stand trial for allegedly kidnapping and torturing three men at the group’s headquarters there, according to the city prosecutor’s office.

A lawyer for the three alleged victims, Mohammed Bahnasy, confirmed the referral on Sunday and said a date for the trial could be announced later this week. The referral was made on Saturday, but the two Brotherhood officials have not yet been detained, he said.

The accusations against the two — Mustafa el-Khouli and Mohammed Abdel-Radi — stem from November protests that swept much of the country, including Damanhour in the Nile Delta. The protests followed President Mohammed Morsi’s decrees, which have since been rescinded, giving himself near absolute powers.

Morsi, who took office in June as Egypt’s first freely elected president, is a longtime Brotherhood leader.

Officials at the Damanhour’s prosecutor office spoke Sunday on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the media.

Brotherhood spokesman Ahmed Aref said he had heard reports of the referral but could not confirm it. A spokesman for the group in Damanhour, Farid Sayed Mahmoud, referred inquiries about the case to the Brotherhood’s chief lawyer, Abdel-Monaim Abdel-Maqsoud, whose cellular telephone was switched off.

Bahnasy said two of the three men allegedly kidnapped and tortured were 17 and 19. The third was 21. He said the three were detained separately for up to five hours during clashes between supporters and opponents of Morsi at Damanhour’s main el-Saaah, or the clock tower, square on Nov. 24.

The referral followed a two-day sit-in by the three and their supporters outside the city’s prosecution office to protest against what they perceived as stalling over referring the case to trial.

The opposition accuses Morsi supporters of setting up detention centers on Dec. 5 outside the presidential palace in Cairo, where they tortured protesters during daylong clashes in the area. The Brotherhood says at least 10 of its supporters were killed that day, but the opposition disputes the figure.

On March 22, the two sides clashed outside the Brotherhood’s national headquarters in an eastern Cairo district. Both sides, according to witnesses, detained and beat members of the rival side.

Morsi blames thugs for the political violence that has swept Egypt for much of the two years since the ouster of autocrat Hosni Mubarak in a popular uprising. He also accuses the opposition of providing political cover for the violence. The opposition, mostly liberal and secular, maintains that it does not condone violence.

HAMZA HENDAWI,Associated Press