CAIRO (Reuters) - Mohamed ElBaradei, Egypt’s former vice president, will be sued in court for a “betrayal of trust” over his decision to quit the army-backed government in protest at its bloody crackdown on the Muslim Brotherhood.
The case, brought by an Egyptian law professor, will be heard in a Cairo court on September 19, judicial sources said on Tuesday.
It points to the prospect of a new wave of politically driven lawsuits being brought to court following the downfall of President Mohamed Mursi, whose supporters brought a raft of cases against opposition figures during his year in power.
The cases, many of them for “insulting the president”, have been criticized by anti-government activists as a form of political intimidation.
ElBaradei, former head of the U.N. nuclear agency and co-leader of the secular National Salvation Front, was the most prominent liberal to endorse the military’s overthrow of President Mohamed Mursi on August 3 following mass protests.
But he made new enemies on August 14 by resigning after security forces used force to crush the protest camps set up by Mursi’s Muslim Brotherhood supporters in Cairo, killing hundreds of people.
The military’s intervention against Mursi has polarized public opinion in Egypt and around 900 people have died in violence across the country over the past week.
The case was filed by Sayyed Ateeq, a law professor at Helwan University.
“I raised a case against Dr. ElBaradei. He was appointed in his capacity as a representative of the NSF and the majority of the people who signed the Tamarod declaration,” he told Reuters, referring to the coalition that led the anti-Mursi protests.
“Dr. ElBaradei was entrusted with this position and he had a duty to go back to those who entrusted him and ask to resign.”
Ateeq said that, if found guilty, ElBaradei could face a three year jail sentence. But a judicial source said the maximum sentence that could be imposed in a case of this kind was a fine and a suspended jail term.
ElBaradei left Egypt earlier this week for Europe and is unlikely to attend any hearing in this case.
The lawsuit follows a wave of arrests of Muslim Brotherhood leaders in recent days and a decision by the public prosecutor to charge Mursi, who is being detained in an undisclosed location, with inciting violence.
Khaled Dawoud, a former aide to ElBaradei who joined him in quitting the National Salvation Front following the crackdown, said any decision to try the Nobel peace prize winner would be a political escalation against critics of the military crackdown.
“If this case against ElBaradei is true then it is a major escalation showing that things are getting very polarized. You’re either on this side or on that side,” he told Reuters.
“Things took a very different turn from what someone like myself expected when I took part in the June 30 demonstrations against Mursi.”
Additional reporting by Tom Perry; Editing by Tom Perry and Alison Williams