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Egypt holds men on suspicion of aiding Hamas-lawyer
April 7, 2009 / 10:27 PM / 9 years ago

Egypt holds men on suspicion of aiding Hamas-lawyer

CAIRO, April 7 (Reuters) - Egyptian authorities are questioning a group of Egyptians, Lebanese and Palestinians on suspicion of helping the Palestinian Islamist group Hamas, a lawyer for the men told Al Jazeera satellite channel from Cairo on Tuesday.

Lawyer Montasser al-Zayat said state security prosecutors began interrogating the men on Saturday, and said he had been denied access to his clients.

Zayat said authorities were accusing the men of "helping Hezbollah elements to send money and aid and food to Hamas and the Palestinians in Gaza," but had not disclosed to him any official charges or accusations.

"We’ve not been able to find out the official charges, but they revolve around supporting Hamas and Hezbollah," Zayat said.

Egypt is eager to show that it is doing all it can to stop money or aid reaching Hamas, which rules Gaza and is at odds with Fatah, the rival movement that holds sway in the West Bank.

The Egyptian government is also worried that public support for Gaza may boost the popularity of the Muslim Brotherhood, which has ideological and historical ties with Hamas and is the strongest opposition group in Egypt.

Both Hamas and Hezbollah, the Lebanese Shi‘ite movement, are supported by Iran, whose growing influence in the region has alarmed conservative Arab states.

According to Al Jazeera there are about 50 detainees, and Zayat said they included seven Palestinians and three Lebanese.

A state security prosecution source told Reuters a group of men were being questioned on suspicion of "promoting the ideology of Hezbollah," but would not give more details.

Zayat said: "The information I‘m getting is that state security is investigating the Egyptians’ connections with these Lebanese elements that the authorities say act as a link with Palestinians in Gaza."

Egyptian authorities secretly detained at least 35 men in April 2007 on suspicion of plotting to overthrow the government. Their detention was revealed by Zayat several months later.

(Writing by Aziz El-Kaissouni, editing by Tim Pearce)

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