Brother of Al-Qaeda head Zawahiri to stand trial in Egypt over forming 'terrorist group'

CAIRO (AFP) - The brother of Al-Qaeda chief Ayman al-Zawahiri will stand trial in Egypt along with 67 others on charges of forming a "terrorist group", state media reported on Sunday. Mohamed al-Zawahiri was arrested last August for supporting Islamist president Mohamed Mursi, who was ousted by the army in July and has now been refered to trial by the state prosecutor.

Zawahiri and the other suspects are accused of having set up an "Al-Qaeda-linked terrorist group" that plotted attacks against government installations, security personnel and members of Egypt's Christian minority, state news agency MENA said. The group was seeking to "spread chaos and undermine security" across Egypt, it added. MENA did not say whether the group had actually carried out any attacks, nor did it give a date for the trial.

Meanwhile, a controversial lawyer and critic of activists who spearheaded Egypt's 2011 uprising announced on Sunday that he will run for president, in an election expected to be won by the former army chief.

Mr Mortada Mansour, who was elected last week as head of Cairo's Zamalek football club, said he was in favour of a "strong state" to enforce the rule of law.

Former army chief Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi is widely expected to win the May 26 to 27 presidential election, riding a wave of popularity after ousting Islamist president Mohamed Mursi last July.

"My programme in brief is (to make) Egypt strong and recover its prestige and status in the world," Mr Mansour, wearing a dark business suit and sunglasses, told a press conference.

He called for a moratorium on "protests, sit-ins and strikes for a whole year until the country is back on its feet", economically and politically.

He also lashed out at interim president Adly Mansour for having failed to restore security.

"You (Mansour) are fast asleep, while young people, police and troops are dying each day and the country is covered in blood," said Mr Mansour, who is also a former judge and MP.

Militants have stepped up attacks on security forces since Morsi's overthrow, killing scores of policemen and soldiers in retaliation for a deadly government crackdown on his supporters.

More than 1,400 people, mostly Islamists, have been killed in the crackdown, while thousands are behind bars, according to Amnesty international.

Mr Mansour said he tried to run in the 2012 presidential election won by Mursi, but his candidacy was rejected by the electoral committee for unknown reasons.

In October 2012, Mr Mansour was among 24 people acquitted of organising the infamous "battle of the camel", a camel-borne assault on protesters in Cairo's Tahrir Square during the 2011 revolt which ousted Hosni Mubarak.

Leftist leader Hamdeen Sabahi has also announced his candidacy for next month's presidential election.

Join ST's Telegram channel and get the latest breaking news delivered to you.