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Morsi will be tried for conspiring to commit 'terrorist acts'

If found guilty, Egypt's former president and his top aides could be executed.

Morsi brotherhood accused conspiracy Enlarge
Egyptian students of al-Azhar University who support the Muslim Brotherhood raise their hands showing the four-finger sign for "rabaa" ("four") in Arabic, associated with riot police violence against supporters of ousted Islamist President Mohammed Morsi near Cairo's Rabaa Mosque on Aug. 14, 2013. On Dec. 18, 2013, Morsi and dozens of other Islamists were accused of conspiracy and terrorism, charges which could result in their execution. (Khaled Kamel/AFP/Getty Images)

CAIRO, Egypt — Egypt’s former President Mohamed Morsi is to stand trial on charges of espionage, accused of conspiring with foreign groups to commit terrorist acts and divulging military secrets to a foreign state.

Some of Morsi’s closest aides are among a group of 34 other Islamists who will face the same charges, laid out in a statement by Egypt’s public prosecutor on Wednesday. A guilty verdict could result in their execution.

Morsi was ousted on July 3 in a popularly-backed military coup. He is already standing trial over separate accusations related to the killing of demonstrators in December 2012.

Describing the former president's alleged espionage as “the biggest case of conspiracy in the history of Egypt,” the prosecutor's statement accuses Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood of committing acts of violence and terrorism. It also accuses the former president and his allies of preparing a “terrorist plan” involving an alliance with the Palestinian group Hamas and Lebanese Hezbollah.

Contacted Wednesday by GlobalPost, Morsi's lawyer, Mohamed al-Danaty, said the former president's legal team had only found out about the charges through Egyptian media reports. They have not seen the case file, he said.

Al-Danaty said lawyers will visit Morsi in prison next week, and announce the results of that meeting at a press conference shortly afterwards.

"President Morsi continues to state that he is the legitimate president of the country, and that he does not accept the legitimacy of his judges," he said.

According to the charge sheet, the Brotherhood had masterminded a plan dating back to 2005 that would send "elements" to the Gaza Strip for military training by Hezbollah and the Iranian Revolutionary Guards.

Upon their return to Egypt, they would join forces with extremist groups in the Sinai Peninsula, it said.

The charges appear to be the upshot of an investigation, announced in July, over claims that the Brotherhood had colluded with Hamas to facilitate a jailbreak during Egypt's 2011 uprising. Speaking at the time, a Muslim Brotherhood spokesman dismissed the allegations as baseless.

Violence in Egypt’s restive North Sinai region has increased since July, with at least 259 attacks carried out by an amorphous network of jihadist groups.

More from GlobalPost: Terror in the Sinai

According to the statement, the Brotherhood was also involved in smuggling weapons and allowing its members to enter Gaza through tunnels in the Sinai to receive training from factions of Hezbollah and Iranians.

Morsi's presidential aides — including Essam El-Haddad, his national security adviser — were also accused of leaking secret reports to the Iranian Revolutionary Guards and Hezbollah as a reward for their cooperation.

Many of Morsi’s aides, including Haddad, have been held in incommunicado detention since July. They are believed to be in the east Cairo headquarters of the Republican Guard.

The Egyptian authorities have launched a fierce assault on the Muslim Brotherhood since Morsi was removed from power, killing hundreds of his supporters during protests and arresting thousands.

Rights groups have called on the Egyptian authorities to acknowledge and thoroughly investigate the deaths of up to 1,000 people on Aug. 14 after riot police used lethal force to break up two pro-Morsi sit-ins. Human Rights Watch has described the carnage as the “worst mass unlawful killings in the country’s modern history.”

The Brotherhood’s traditionally tight organizational structure has been decimated, particularly in urban areas. The remaining members of its leadership who have escaped arrest have mostly fled to Qatar, Turkey and London.

Reuters contributed to this report.

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/middle-east/egypt/131218/morsi-tried-conspiracy-terrorism-espionage-muslim-brotherhood