Egypt: 50 detained over suspected Hezbollah ties

Cairo, 8 April (AKI) - Prosecutors in Cairo are investigating 50 people in Egypt suspected of belonging to an Islamist group with links to militant Shia group Hezbollah, a prominent lawyer representing the men told local daily al-Youm-al-Sabi on Wednesday.

Islamist lawyer Montasser al-Zayat said state security prosecutors began interrogating the suspects on Saturday, most of whom are Egyptian citizens but who include a number of Palestinians.

Prosecutors want to discover if the suspects were aiming to set up a branch of Hezbollah in Egypt to proselytise for the group and to help it send funds to Gaza's ruling Islamist Palestinian group Hamas and to Palestinians in the coastal strip.

The group's alleged leader, a Lebanese citizen named as Shihab S. is among those detained for questioning.

Egypt is keen to show it is doing its utmost to stop money or aid reaching Hamas, which is at odds with the more secular and pro-western Fatah, which controls the West Bank.

The government is also worried public support for Gaza's population may boost the popularity of the Muslim Brotherhood, which has ties to Hamas and is Egypt's strongest opposition force.

The prosecutors claim they foiled a plan by Shihab S. and two Palestinians to buy a house in close to the Gaza Strip's southern Rafah crossing near the Egyptian border, allegedly for use in arms trafficking.

The plan was reportedly discovered after the Egyptian authorities imposed a ban on the purchasing of properties along the border with Gaza.

Egyptian authorities secretly detained at least 35 men in April 2007 on suspicion of plotting a coup, al-Zayat revealed several months later.


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