CAIRO (Reuters) - Egyptian police captured senior Muslim Brotherhood official Mohamed El-Beltagi on Thursday, security sources said, as they pressed on with a crackdown that has put most of the Islamist group’s top leaders behind bars.
Beltagi, secretary-general 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.
Since deposing President Mohamed Mursi and his Muslim Brotherhood government on July 3, the military-backed authorities have killed hundreds of pro-Mursi protesters and arrested the bulk of the Brotherhood’s leaders in what they call a fight against terrorism.
The Brotherhood’s top leader, Mohamed Badie, and his deputies Khairat al-Shater and Rashad Bayoumy have already been put on trial on charges including incitement to violence in connection with a protest on July 8, in a prosecution they dismiss as politically-motivated.
The authorities had also ordered Beltagi’s arrest on July 10 on the same charges, which relate to a bid by authorities to break up a vigil by thousands of Mursi supporters demanding his reinstatement.
Security sources say 53 protesters died in the pre-dawn clash along with four members of the security forces. The army says “terrorists” provoked the shooting by attacking its troops.
Beltagi was a prominent speaker at a pro-Mursi protest camp at the Rabaa Adawiya mosque that was smashed by the security forces on August 14, on a day when more than 600 people died, most of them Brotherhood supporters shot by police.
Writing by Kevin Liffey; editing by Andrew Roche