Former Egyptian president Mohammed Morsi has been charged with conspiring with foreign organizations to commit acts of terrorism, prosecutors have announced. He has also been accused of divulging military secrets.
Thirty-five other defendants, including presidential aides and top-ranking officials of Morsi's now-outlawed Muslim Brotherhood, will stand trial alongside him, according to Egypt's official news agency MENA.
MENA said the defendants were accused of "espionage for foreign organizations abroad to commit terrorist attacks in the country." All, including Morsi, could face the death penalty if found guilty.
The news agency Associated Press quoted Mohammed el-Damaty, a defense lawyer for Muslim Brotherhood members, as saying that lawyers had not attended any of their clients' interrogations and have no idea about the details of the charges.
MENA quoted Egypt's public prosecutor as saying that the groups referred to included the Palestinian group Hamas, Iran's Revolutionary Guard and the militant Lebanese movement Hezbollah.
Training in Gaza Strip?
Prosecutors have accused the Brotherhood of planning to send "elements" to the Gaza Strip for military training by Hezbollah and the Revolutionary Guards, with secret reports leaked to the groups in reward.
A statement from prosecutors reportedly said the Muslim Brotherhood had carried out violent acts in Egypt to create chaos, and had received funds from foreign countries. The charge sheet called it "the biggest case of conspiracy in the history of Egypt."
The investigation included a probe into the prison breaks during the 2011 uprising against ex-president Hosni Mubarak, with Morsi and a number of other political prisoners escaping three days after mass protests erupted on January 25 of that year.
Investigators say planning for the terrorist acts had begun as far back as 2005, and were put into effect in 2011. The group were out to establish an Islamic "emirate" should Morsi not be rise to power.
Morsi was elected as president in June 2012, but was removed from power by the military just 13 months later during mass protests against his rule.
He already faces charges of inciting the deaths of protestors when in office, with that trial to resume on January 8.
He is currently an inmate at Borg al-Arab prison near Alexandria. The Muslim Brotherhood has faced a severe crackdown since he was deposed.
(AP, AFP, Reuters, dpa)