CAIRO (Reuters) - Egyptian security forces have arrested the son of a Muslim Brotherhood leader on charges of inciting violence, the Interior Ministry said on Tuesday, the latest move in a crackdown against the group now branded a terrorist organisation.
Anas Beltagi was arrested 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 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.
On Tuesday, a court sentenced six Brotherhood members to three years in jail and a fine of 50,000 Egyptian pounds each for engaging in violent actions, protesting and rioting. Some 139 members were sentenced on Monday to two years in jail and a fine of 5,000 Egyptian pounds over similar charges.
Security forces also arrested on Tuesday the former presidency spokesman, Yasser Ali, who served under Mursi, state media reported. He was found in an apartment in Cairo. A security source said he was arrested over accusations of inciting violence and protesting and joining a terrorist group.
Egypt last month issued a protest law making it illegal to hold demonstrations without the approval of the police.
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 compound in the Nile Delta that killed 16 people. The Brotherhood has denied involvement.
“The Egyptian people are entrusted in our hands and we are capable of carrying out such responsibility,” army chief Abdel Fattah al-Sisi said in an address to troops on Tuesday.
“We are ready to sacrifice with our blood for the sake of Egypt and the Egyptians,” added the powerful army general, who is likely to run for the presidency in an election expected to take place in a few months.
The United States had on Monday expressed concern 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,” U.S. State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf said in Washington.
Although Sisi reiterated in his speech that Egypt is for all its people, security forces continue to crack down on the Brotherhood, the state’s oldest and most organised group and which won all five elections since the downfall of autocratic President Hosni Mubarak in 2011.
Some 16 pro-Brotherhood students are due to stand trial on Saturday for protesting without permission, according to judicial sources. The authorities also froze the funds of 572 leaders of the Muslim Brotherhood, including Pakinam el-Sharkawi, Mursi’s political adviser.
Clashes between protesters and security forces also continued for a second day on Tuesday at Al Azhar University, a main stage of violent protests since the start of its fall semester in September and in which nine have been killed.
Judicial sources said 34 pro-Brotherhood protesters from Azhar University were sent to jail for 15 days pending investigations over causing chaos at the university and resisting authorities as well as damaging public property.
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 in 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.
President Adly Mansour is due soon to issue a statement setting the schedule and timeframe of both elections, the presidency said in a statement.
Reporting by Asma Alsharif Editing by Angus MacSwan and James Dalgleish