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Egypt arrests 5 pro-Morsi leaders ahead of coup anniversary

Authorities have detained five political leaders who have called for a "day of rage" to mark the first anniversary of the military coup on 3 July
Authorities have led a brutal crackdown against supporters of ousted president Mohamed Morsi (AFP)

Egyptian police arrested five prominent anti-coup leaders on Tuesday, two days ahead of protests their alliance has called to mark the first anniversary of the ousting of the country’s first freely elected president Mohamed Morsi.

Magdy Hussein, a leader of the Anti-Coup Alliance that has spearheaded protests demanding Morsi’s reinstatement, was arrested at dawn according to security officials who spoke to AFP. He faces charges of inciting violence and threatening national security and stability.

Also detained was Nasr Abdel Salam, head of the Building and Development party, the political arm of Gamaa Islamiya, a former militant group that has since renounced violence. Two other leaders of the party, which is part of the anti-coup alliance, were also arrested.

Police also detained Hossam Khalaf, a leader of the moderate Islamist party Wassat, security officials said. Khalaf, whose party is also part of the pro-Morsi alliance, is accused of inciting violence.

Since the military deposed Morsi on 3 July last year, authorities have waged a brutal crackdown on his supporters that has seen more than 1,400 people killed in street clashes and over 41,000 jailed, according to Egyptian monitoring group Wikithawra.  

The Anti-Coup Alliance condemned the arrests as “kidnappings” and renewed its call for pro-Morsi protests during a “day of rage” on Thursday, which will be the first anniversary of his removal from office.

Since Morsi’s ouster the alliance has led regular protests against the new authorities, but its rallies have shrunk as tens of thousands of demonstrators have been detained, with another 31 supporters of the former president jailed for three years on Tuesday.

Judicial sources told the Turkish Anadolu Agency a court in the northern Gharbiya province sentenced 25 Morsi supporters to three years in prison for joining a “terrorists organisation”, in a reference to the Muslim Brotherhood that authorities outlawed in December last year.

Another court in Cairo jailed six Brotherhood members on violence-related charges and acquitted seven others, the source told Anadolu.

The court found defendants guilty of “rioting” and “assaulting security forces” during deadly clashes last summer in Cairo’s Ramses Square, where hundreds were killed as security forces cleared protests in support of the ousted president.

Tuesday’s verdicts are still subject to appeal, the judicial source added.