Foreign groups implicated in Morsi jailbreak

Muslim Brotherhood, Hamas and Hezbollah accused of 2011 prison raid that freed current Egyptian President.

Mohamed Morsi
Morsi has maintained that he was freed by local residents [Reuters]

An Egyptian court has said that the Muslim Brotherhood conspired with Hamas and Hezbollah to storm a prison in 2011 and set free 34 high-level Brotherhood members, including current President Mohamed Morsi.

Judge Khaled Mahgoub on Sunday named two members of the Brotherhood, Ibrahim Haggag and Sayed Ayad, among conspirators in the attack on Wadi el-Natroun prison complex in northern Egypt.

The attack took place in January 2011, days after Morsi and other high-level members had been arrested without charge by the security forces of Hosni Mubarak, and as a popular uprising gained momentum against the Mubarak regime. 

The court statement is the first to hold the Brotherhood, the Palestinian group Hamas and Lebanese Shia group Hezbollah responsible for the attack on the Wadi el-Natroun complex.

The judge said Haggag and Ayad took part in the attack with “those [foreign] elements who violated the sovereignty of the Egyptian state and its territory in addition to spreading chaos throughout the republic”.

He added that the operations led to the release of “thousands of prisoners who are a danger to society”.

The court\s evidence has been passed to the prosecutor-general’s office, with a request that Brotherhood members who escaped – which would include the president – should be questioned.

A source in the prosectutor-general’s office has told Al Jazeera that it will investigate the case, although there has been no official statement.

Walls demolished

More than 11,000 inmates escaped during the operation. Thirteen inmates were also killed, according to Mahgoub, who said the attackers were equipped with machine guns mounted on trucks and SUVs, and huge earth-moving vehicles to demolish walls and gates.

Mahgoub said Hamas fighters crossed the Gaza border on January 25, 2011, while Hezbollah fighters crossed into Egypt on January 28. The prison break took place a day later. 

Morsi and other Brotherhood leaders maintain they were freed by local residents, and Hamas has denied involvement.

The court statement stems from a case which began in January when a former inmate appealed against a three-month conviction by a lower court for escaping Wadi el-Natroun. The defendant was acquitted on appeal by Judge Mahgoub, who on Sunday referred evidence to the prosecutor-general.

A total of 26 police, prison and intelligence officials gave evidence in the court case, held in the Suez Canal city of Ismailia.

Morsi has not spoken publicly about his escape since he gave an account of what happened in a phone call to Al Jazeera moments after being freed.

“From the noises we heard … it seemed to us there were [prisoners] attempting to get out of their cells and break out into the prison yard and the prison authorities were trying to regain control and fired tear gas,” Morsi said in the call.

“By the time they got out, the prison was empty, and there was no sign of a major battle.”

Social unrest

The statement comes as Morsi’s opponents prepare to stage large protests against his rule to coincide with the June 30 first anniversary of his victory as Egypt’s first freely elected leader.

Morsi was a leading member Muslim Brotherhood before being elected, and was backed by the organisation in the elections.

Since his election, Egypt has struggled with a host of problems that many accuse Morsi of failing to effectively tackle. They include surging crime, rising prices, power cuts, fuel shortages and unemployment.

Source: Al Jazeera, News Agencies