World News

Egypt's Morsi Detained on Charges of Conspiring with Hamas

An Egyptian judge has ordered the continued detention of ousted President Mohamed Morsi on charges he conspired with the Palestinian militant group Hamas, as the country braces for rival protests Friday.

The official MENA news agency said Mr. Morsi has been detained for 15 days for investigation into the charges. The Islamist leader has been held without charge in secret military detention since July 3, when he was removed by Egypt's army.

Investigators are determining whether Mr. Morsi worked with Hamas to help him and dozens of other Islamist leaders escape from prison during the 2011 uprising that toppled former President Hosni Mubarak.

Mr. Morsi's Muslim Brotherhood has said local residents helped free the prisoners. But a Cairo court has been investigating whether Mr. Morsi collaborated with Hamas to carry out attacks on police stations. It is unclear whether he will face the charges in court.

A spokesman for Mr. Morsi's Muslim Brotherhood on Friday slammed the accusations, saying they were proof of the return to the Mubarak era..

The charges come as supporters and opponents of Mr. Morsi plan rival mass protests on Friday, raising fears of continued violence that has left dozens dead in recent weeks.

Army chief Abdel Fattah el-Sissi has called for "all honorable Egyptians" to take to the streets to give him a mandate to fight what he called "violence and terrorism."

Many Islamists view the statement as a prelude to a violent crackdown and have called for their own protests. Egypt's army has recently used "violence and terrorism" to refer to the actions of Mr. Morsi's Muslim Brotherhood.

A military spokesman insists Sissi's statement was not aimed at any single political group. While he says the military respects peaceful protests, he vowed that any violence will be dealt with "decisively and with force."

World leaders are expressing increasing concern about the rising violence, the polarization of Egyptian society, and the army's crackdown on Brotherhood leaders.

On Thursday, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called for restraint on all sides, saying he supports the rights of all Egyptians to hold peaceful protests.

He also said the Egyptian military should "end arbitrary arrests and other reported forms of harassment." He said Mr. Morsi and other detained members of the Muslim Brotherhood should either be freed or have their cases reviewed.

The U.S. has also expressed concern about Sissi's calls for protests. Hours after the Wednesday speech, the Obama administration announced it had delayed the delivery of four F-16 fighter jets to Egypt's military.

But on Thursday, the White House delivered what could be considered a victory to Egypt's army by announcing it will not declare its overthrow of the government as a coup. Such a designation would have required the U.S. to suspend its massive military and economic aid to Egypt.

The army has denied accusations that its move represented a coup. It says it was obligated to remove Mr. Morsi, Egypt's first elected president, following days of large protests against his rule.

The Egyptian military dominated Egyptian politics for decades until the overthrow of Mr. Mubarak, himself an ex-military commander. It has a long history of animosity toward the Muslim Brotherhood, which is Egypt's most organized political party.

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