Egyptian authorities will try jailed former President Mohamed Morsi for allegedly providing official secrets to the Persian Gulf nation of Qatar in what the state prosecutor called Egypt’s biggest espionage case ever.
By leveling new espionage charges at Morsi, Egypt strikes out simultaneously at Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood and Qatar, which has backed Islamist movements across the region.
The unveiling of the spy case against the Islamist former leader also coincides with government efforts to quell widespread grumbling over a massive electricity outage that paralyzed much of the capital and other cities on Thursday.
President Abdel Fattah Sisi went on nationwide television Saturday to plead for public understanding in the wake of what he called the country’s worst power blackout since the 1990s. He told Egyptians that longstanding infrastructure problems responsible for the outage cannot be fixed overnight.
Middle EastHours-long power outage in Egypt strands commuters, disrupts capitalSee all related
In the espionage case, the prosecutor’s statement accuses Morsi and eight others of providing Qatari intelligence with a trove of classified documents with a direct bearing on Egypt’s national security, in exchange for a payment of $1 million. The statement claims the accused acted at the behest of the Brotherhood’s “international bureau.”
The documents, some of which were allegedly leaked to the Qatar-owned broadcaster Al Jazeera, were described as including information about the Egyptian military and “positioning and nature of its armaments” and other sensitive matters.
Morsi has been jailed since being ousted from office last summer in a popularly backed coup led by Sisi, then the defense minister. The ex-president is on trial on a variety of charges, including a separate espionage case, and could face the death penalty.
Qatar has been a thorn in the side of the Egyptian administration that supplanted Morsi in July of last year. Egypt has angrily complained about Qatar’s calls for Morsi’s release and reinstatement, and has also accused the emirate of complicity with militant groups such as Hamas, which controls the Gaza Strip on Egypt’s border.
Over the last year, Egypt has also moved against Al Jazeera. Three journalists for the broadcaster’s English-language service were sentenced in June to seven years in prison on separate terrorism-related charges. Press groups and human rights organizations say the cases against the three journalists, one of them an Australian national, were politically motivated.
The Brotherhood, once Egypt’s largest political bloc, has been decimated over the last 14 months, with more than 1,000 of its supporters killed in confrontations with security forces and at least 16,000 imprisoned.
Those facing the latest charges along with Morsi include two former presidential aides. The prosecutor’s statement said five people were arrested during the investigation and confessed to playing a role in handing over the documents.
Hassan is a special correspondent.
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