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Tensions escalate in Egypt with arrest orders for activists

March 25, 2013|By Jeffrey Fleishman
  • Egyptian taxi drivers shout slogans against President Mohammed Morsi as they block part of the 6th of October bridge in central Cairo.
Egyptian taxi drivers shout slogans against President Mohammed Morsi… (Amr Nabil / Associated Press )

CAIRO -- The Islamist-led government escalated tensions with opposition parties Monday after Egypt’s prosecutor general ordered the arrest of five activists, including a prominent blogger, for violent protests against the Muslim Brotherhood over the weekend.

The arrest warrants and complaints against scores of opposition figures came a day after President Mohamed Morsi threatened to crack down on political groups that he said were behind a surge in attacks on Muslim Brotherhood offices. Nearly 200 people were injured Friday when protesters attempted to storm the Brotherhood’s headquarters in Cairo.

The Brotherhood has increasingly become the focal point of the opposition’s rage. Believed to be the power behind Morsi, a Brotherhood member for decades, the world’s largest Islamist organization has been criticized by activists for an authoritarianism that has imperiled the economy and spoiled the nation's transition to democracy.

The prosecutor general issued arrest warrants for Karim Shaer, Ahmed Douma, Hazem Abdel-Azim, Ahmed Ghoneimi and Alaa Abdel-Fattah, a blogger and integral figure in the 2011 uprising that brought down President Hosni Mubarak.

They are wanted for "aggression against people, the destruction of property and disturbing civil peace in the events that erupted during the [Friday] protest in front of the Muslim Brotherhood's headquarters," according to a statement released by the prosecutor’s office.

In addition to the warrants, Abdel-Moneim Abdel-Maksoud, the Brotherhood’s lawyer, filed complaints against 169 opposition figures. They include Bothaina Kamel, a TV presenter and former presidential candidate, and Mohammed Aboul-Ghar, a leading opposition member.

"I did not do as much as throw a rock," Kamel told the Associated Press. "It is my right to participate peacefully in a protest."

Months of widespread demonstrations and a police slowdown have paralyzed much of the country and marred the Brotherhood’s political reputation. Egypt’s image abroad has been shaken, tourism has plummeted and foreign reserves have dwindled to record lows. In provocative comments Sunday, Morsi issued a veiled threat to the National Salvation Front and other opposition groups.

"There is a president of the republic and there are emergency measures if any of them makes even the smallest of moves that undermines Egypt or the Egyptians," he said.

He added: "Their lives are worthless when it comes to the interests of Egypt and Egyptians. I am a president after a revolution, meaning that we can sacrifice a few so the country can move forward. It is absolutely no problem."

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