Egyptian security forces have arrested the son of a Muslim Brotherhood leader on charges of inciting violence, the Interior Ministry said, in the latest move in a crackdown against the group now branded a terrorist organisation.
Anas Beltagi was arrested on Monday with two others in an apartment in Nasr City, the same district where security forces in August broke up protests calling for the reinstatement of President Mohamed Mursi, a Muslim Brotherhood leader who was ousted by the army in July. They were found in possession of a shotgun and ammunition, the Interior Ministry said in a statement. Beltagi's father, Mohamed Beltagi, is in jail and facing trial for inciting violence along with other Muslim Brotherhood leaders. Security forces launched a crackdown against the Brotherhood in August, arresting many of their leaders including Mursi and putting them on trial for inciting terrorism and violence.
Hundreds have been killed. Since Mursi's overthrow, security forces have been struggling with some of the worst violence Egypt has seen in decades but the Muslim Brotherhood has denied any links to violence or terrorism. The military-installed government last week formally listed the group as a terrorist organisation and accused it of carrying out a suicide bomb attack on a police station that killed 16 people. The Brotherhood has denied involvement.
The United States expressed concern on Monday about the government's designation of the Brotherhood as a terrorist group, as well as the ongoing detentions and arrests by security forces. "We remain deeply concerned about all of the politically motivated arrests, detentions, and charges in Egypt. These actions raise questions about the rule of law being applied impartially and equitably, and do not move Egypt's transition forward," US State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf said in Washington.
Also on Monday a Cairo court sentenced 139 Brotherhood members to two years in jail and a fine of 5,000 Egyptian pounds each for engaging in violent actions, protesting and rioting. Last month Egypt issued a protest law making it illegal to hold demonstrations without the approval of the police. On Tuesday security forces trasferred to court 16 pro-Brotherhood students over accusations of protesting without permission, state media said. Authorities also froze the funds of 572 leaders of the Muslim Brotherhood, including Pakinam el-Sharkawi, one of Mursi's top aides, judicial sources said. Clashes between protesters and security forces also renewed on Tuesday at Al Azhar University, a main stage of violent protests since the start of its fall semester in September. Egypt is pushing through with a roadmap to political transition that could see new parliamentary and presidential elections next year.
A referendum on a new constitution is due to take place in mid-January. Minister of Social Solidarity Ahmed al-Borei said in remarks carried by state media on Tuesday that the "door is open" for members of the Muslim Brotherhood who have not been involved in violence to run for the presidential and parliamentary elections as individual candidates. He also said the Presidency is planning to carry out the presidential contest before parliamentary elections next year, changing a roadmap to democracy that the army outlined in July.