Egyptian authorities on Tuesday detained a leader of the 2011 uprising that unseated long-time president Hosni Mubarak, accusing him and others of involvement in a Muslim Brotherhood plot to bring down the government of President Abdel Fattah El Sisi.
Former politician Zyad El Elaimy, a prominent member of the Egyptian Social Democratic Party and spokesman for the since-dissolved January 25 Revolution Coalition, was held along with at least seven others who the ministry described as loyal to the Brotherhood.
The organisation has been outlawed in Egypt and several other countries in the region, including the UAE.
The ministry said Mr El Elaimy and others arrested, including the economist Omar El Shenety and journalists Hossam Monis and Hisam Fouad, were collaborating with wanted Brotherhood members in Turkey to plot violence and riots on the anniversary this week of the June 30 mass protests that led to the military’s removal of Islamist president Mohammed Morsi in 2013.
The plan was to “carry out violent and disorderly acts against state institutions simultaneously with [the aim of] creating a state of revolutionary momentum”, the ministry said.
It accused five people outside Egypt, including former presidential candidate Ayman Nour and prominent TV personalities Moataz Matar and Mohamed Nasser, of involvement in the alleged plot.
The ministry said Mr El Elaimy and the seven other suspects it named were the most prominent figures detained, but did not say how many others were arrested.
It said it had also identified and targeted 19 companies and “economic entities” run via “secret methods” by Brotherhood leaders and the “provocateur elements” loyal to the organisation.
Footage broadcast on Egyptian television showed police officers raiding the firms in the capital Cairo and the cities of Alexandria and Ismailia. A total of 250 million Egyptian pounds (Dh55m) was seized in the raids, according to a ministry video.
Mr El Elaimy’s mother, Ekram Youssef, told Agence France-Presse her son was visiting a friend in the Cairo suburb of Maadi when he was arrested in the early hours of Tuesday.
“Some people grabbed him so he started shouting to his friend. He eventually cooperated with them once the friend came,” she said.
Mr El Elaimy’s party was one of the main protest groups during the January 2011 uprising that toppled Mr Mubarak, but it strongly opposed the rule of Mohammed Morsi, a Brotherhood leader who became Egypt's first democratically elected president in 2012.
Morsi was overthrown a year later by the military, led at that time by Mr El Sisi, and jailed on charges including espionage and involvement in killing protesters. He died after a court appearance last week.
Gamal Eid, a founder of the Arabic Network for Human Rights Information, who is representing Mr El Elaimy, said the interior ministry description of those arrested as “provocateur elements” was a term routinely used during the tenure of Mr Mubarak’s last interior minister, Habib Al Adly.
“It seems to me that it was difficult for them to describe the detainees as terrorist elements because most of them are leftists,” he said.