CAIRO (Reuters) - Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood said on Wednesday some of its members had been wrongfully arrested in United Arab Emirates (UAE) on allegations of helping to train local Islamists in subversion tactics.
“I know 11 people were detained. I know that some of them are from the Brotherhood,” said Mahmoud Ghozlan, a Brotherhood spokesman in Cairo. “The claim that they are a cell seeking to destabilize the country is devoid of truth.”
The arrests came to light on Tuesday when a UAE newspaper reported the authorities had arrested an “Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood cell”, citing an unnamed source.
The oil-rich UAE, which has long voiced distrust of the Muslim Brotherhood that helped propel Egyptian President Mohamed Mursi to power this year, arrested about 60 Islamists last month, accusing them of being linked to the Egyptian group and plotting to undermine governments in the Gulf region.
In what appeared to be an effort to ease tensions, Egypt’s intelligence chief, General Mohamed Shehata, headed to the UAE for talks, airport officials said.
An aide to the Egyptian president also handed over a message from Mursi to UAE’s president, a statement from the Egyptian presidency said, without giving details.
“We are in contact with the authorities there and will see what will happen in the next period,” Foreign Minister Mohamed Kamel Amr was quoted as saying by the state news agency.
The son of one of the arrested Egyptians said in Cairo that his father, Ali Sonbol, is a medical doctor and is not involved in political activities.
“They didn’t say where they were taking him and what were the charges,” Ahmed Sonbol told Reuters. “The Egyptian embassy only assured us that he was detained by UAE authorities and he is well.”
UAE officials were not available for comment.
Relations between Egypt and the UAE soured after Egyptian strongman Hosni Mubarak - a longtime Gulf ally - was toppled in Egypt’s 2011 revolution.
Last month, UAE Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed al-Nahayan summoned Egypt’s ambassador over claims carried by Egyptian media the UAE was behind a plot against Egypt’s leadership, saying they were “fabricated”.
Thanks to their state-sponsored cradle-to-grave welfare systems, the UAE and other Gulf Arab monarchies have largely avoided the Arab Spring unrest which has unseated long-serving rulers elsewhere in the past two years.
The Brotherhood has sought to reassure Gulf states it has no plan to push for political change beyond Egypt’s borders.
Additional reporting by Rania El Gamal in Dubai; Writing by Tamim Elyan; Editing by Maria Golovnina and Michael Roddy