Mohamed El-Beltagi makes a 'Rabaa' gesture in reference to
the police clearing of the Rabaa al-Adawiya protest camp on
August 14, after being arrested in Giza, Egypt.
REUTERS/Egyptian Interior Ministry
Egyptian police have captured a senior Muslim Brotherhood
official and have threatened to use live rounds at planned
anti-government rallies, pressing ahead with a campaign that
has thrown Egypt's oldest Islamist organisation into disarray.
Mohamed Beltagi, a leader of the Brotherhood's Freedom and
Justice Party, had urged Egyptians to join rallies against
the military on Friday, in a recorded statement aired by the
Qatari-owned Al Jazeera television news network this week.
He was arrested with two fellow Brotherhood officials and
transferred to Tora jail on the outskirts of Cairo, where the
upper echelon of the organisation is already incarcerated.
Egypt is enduring the worst internal strife in its modern
history, triggered by the army's July 3 overthrow of
President Mohamed Mursi, a Brotherhood member.
More than 950 people, including 100 soldiers and police, have
been killed since security forces broke up two pro-Mursi
sit-ins on Aug. 14. One human rights activist estimates that
2,000 people have been detained in the crackdown which
appears to have sapped the momentum of anti-government
The National Coalition to Support Legitimacy and Reject the
Coup, which includes the Brotherhood and demands Mursi's
reinstatement, called for protests following noon prayers
last Friday, but failed to draw large crowds.
This week, Beltagi and Essam El-Erian, one of the most senior
Brotherhood officials to remain at large, sought to
resuscitate protests against the military in recorded
"I call on the Egyptian people to protest on Friday Aug. 30
to bring down the bloody military coup," Erian said.
In contrast to last Friday's relatively low-key security
arrangements, the interior ministry issued a statement on
Thursday warning protesters that police would be armed with
live bullets and ready to confront any attempts to undermine
security or "assault government, police or religious
BRACING FOR BLOODSHED
State television channels have described the Brotherhood as a
"terrorist" group and accused it of violence. The Brotherhood
says it is still committed to peaceful resistance despite
relentless pressure from security forces.
Dozens of Mursi supporters marching in central Cairo on
Thursday were set upon by another group who favour the
military. Witnesses said security forces resorted to firing
in the air to separate the groups before a full-scale brawl
A nightly curfew has brought an eerie calm to the capital's
streets, where people usually sit in cafes until the early
The curfew is hurting business but, exhausted by
two-and-a-half years of turmoil, many Egyptians are yearning
for a return to normalcy, even if it means accepting the
military's influence on politics.
Detained with Beltagi on Thursday were Khaled al-Azhari, a
government minister during Mursi's tenure, and Jamal
al-Ishri, another official of the Islamist organisation.
The Brotherhood's general guide, Mohamed Badie, and his
deputies Khairat al-Shater and Rashad Bayoumy have already
been put on trial on charges including incitement to killing.
Their lawyers say the trials are politically motivated.
The authorities had ordered Beltagi's arrest on July 10 on
similar charges. Beltagi was a prominent speaker at a
pro-Mursi protest camp at the Rabaa Adawiya mosque that was
smashed by the security forces on Aug. 14.