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Egypt: Muslim Brotherhood leader arrested as prisoners' deaths sparks controversy - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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Muslim Brotherhood leader Mohamed Badie (R) sits in a police vehicle after being arrested by security forces in Cairo, in this Egyptian Interior Ministry handout picture provided on August 20, 2013. REUTERS/Egyptian Interior Ministry/Handout

Muslim Brotherhood leader Mohamed Badie (R) sits in a police vehicle after being arrested by security forces in Cairo, in this Egyptian Interior Ministry handout picture provided on August 20, 2013. REUTERS/Egyptian Interior Ministry/Handout

Cairo and London, Asharq Al-Awsat—Egyptian authorities arrested Muslim Brotherhood’s supreme guide, Mohamed Badie, on Tuesday, following a raid on a residential building in Cairo. Badie was charged in July with inciting the murder of protesters, together with his two deputies, and is due to stand trial on August 25.

Meanwhile, the deaths of 36 pro-Mursi prisoners in a prison van while being transferred to Abu Zaabal Prison, north of Cairo, was the subject of heated disputes on Monday, following conflicting stories about the circumstances of their deaths.

The Egyptian Interior Ministry said the prisoners were killed by “suffocation caused by tear gas”, which was used when the prisoners tried to escape. The Muslim Brotherhood described the deaths as “cold-blooded murder” and demanded an international investigation.

Interior Ministry sources said prison vans carrying prisoners to Abu Zaabal Prison were attacked by armed men who fired at the security guards. The source said the armed men were “dealt with,” but prisoners in one van seized an officer who was guarding them. Tear gas was fired at the prisoners in order to free the officer and prevent their escape.

The sources added that the deaths were caused by “a stampede when prisoners tried to get out of the van, which resulted in suffocation by tear gas.” They added that the officer was rescued and was taken to hospital suffering serious injuries.

Egyptian general prosecution office yesterday said it started investigations into the incident by sending an investigation team to inspect the vehicles involved and speak to eyewitnesses. Initial findings, the prosecution office said, supported the version given by the Interior Ministry.

Families of the deceased prisoners said the prisoners were “tortured before being killed and then their bodies were burned.”

Former Arab League chief Amr Moussa demanded the “formation of an independent judicial investigation committee to investigate the Abu Zaabal Prison events, adding that what took place there was a real tragedy which needed instant punishment for the perpetrators.”

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Hazem El-Beblawi spoke to the ministers of justice and interior to discuss the details of the incident. The Council of Ministers called on all parties in Egypt to denounce violence and respect the rule of law.

In another development, EU foreign ministers will hold an extraordinary meeting on Wednesday to discuss the Egyptian situation. Bernardino Leon, EU special envoy to Egypt, said EU foreign ministers “are considering various options at this stage, and I know an arms ban is one of those options.”

Leon was quoted by the German news agency as saying: “I have not heard about any possibility of imposing sanctions,” adding that the EU wanted to keep communication channels open with Egypt.