Egyptian security forces have escalated their crackdown on deposed President Mohamed Morsi’s Muslim
Brotherhood by arresting its top leader.
The Interior Ministry said police picked up Brotherhood chief Mohamed Badie on Monday near Rabaa al-Adawiya Square, where more than 280 Morsi supporters were killed last Wednesday as police cleared their protest camp.
It released a video of the 70-year-old, sitting impassively on a sofa, bottles of juice and water placed conspicuously in front of him.
Al Jazeera’s Mike Hanna, reporting from Cairo, said the arrest was “incredibly significant”.
“The arrest of the spiritual leader was always seen as a red line, even Hosni Mubarak never arrested him, but this military-led government is clearly ignoring that.”
Following his arrest, the Muslim Brotherhood temporarily appointed Mahmoud Ezzat, Badie’s deputy, as the spiritual leader.
Interior Ministry sources told Al Jazeera Badie was moved on Tuesday morning to Tora prison, located in southern Cairo, where ousted President Hosni Mubarak and other leaders from his regime are being held.
The public prosecutor ordered Badie’s detained for 15 days pending investigation of accusations of inciting violence.
The White House criticised the arrest, saying it was “not in line” with standards of protecting basic human rights.
‘Just one individual’
A senior Brotherhood official, Ahmed Aref, said on its website on Monday that Badei’s arrest would change nothing.
“The leader of the Muslim Brotherhood is just one individual… among the millions who oppose the coup,” he said.
Badie and his powerful deputy Khairat el-Shater, who is in custody, will go on trial later this month for their alleged role in the killing of eight protesters outside the Brotherhood’s Cairo headquarters in June.
Al Jazeera’s Bernard Smith, also reporting from Cairo, said Badie had been seen in public only once since Morsi was overthrown and that, with his arrest, most of the Brotherhood’s leadership are now in the custody of the military-led government.
“He made an appearance on stage at the sit-in protest at Rabaa Mosque,” our correspondent said. “That was the only time anybody saw him. He’s been in hiding since then.”
The Facebook page of the Interior Ministry also displayed pictures of Badie with a caption confirming his arrest.
“Carrying out the decisions of the public prosecutor to arrest and bring forward the general guide of the Muslim Brotherhood Mohamed Badie, and through collected information and observation of movements it was possible for the criminal search apparatus under the direction of Cairo’s security [services] to arrest him,” the caption said.
A son of Badie was killed in Cairo during last week’s “Day of Rage” protests against the army-backed government and the crackdown on its opponents. Ammar Badie, 38, died of a bullet wound sustained while taking part in protests in the city’s Ramses Square,