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Published: Sunday September 8, 2013 MYT 4:30:01 AM
Updated: Sunday September 8, 2013 MYT 4:31:01 AM

Egypt's prosecutor begins probe into political activists - source

CAIRO (Reuters) - Egypt's public prosecutor is looking into legal complaints against a group of prominent democracy and rights activists, a judicial source at the prosecutor's office said on Saturday, adding to fears of a widening crackdown on dissent.

Confirming a story on the Web site of state newspaper Al-Ahram on Saturday, the source said the prosecutor received complaints from private citizens against 35 political figures, many of them important figures in the 2011 uprising against ousted Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak.

They include activist Ahmed Maher, blogger Ahmed Douma and liberal politician Amr Hamzawi, the source said.

The complaints accuse the activists of accepting money from the United States and other countries, and say that diplomatic cables leaked by WikiLeaks support their claims, the source said.

Hamzawi denied on Twitter the allegations in Al-Ahram. "Claims that I got foreign money are completely untrue, the campaign of fabrication and distortion must immediately stop," he said.

It was not clear which WikiLeaks cables the complaints referred to, but some cables talk about the then-U.S. ambassador meeting or having dinner with activists in 2007 and 2008.

The prosecutor's office was not available to confirm the report or comment.

Prosecutions based on complaints brought by private individuals have long been seen as a tool of political intimidation in Egypt, often instigated by government supporters. Many were brought against opponents of Islamist president Mohamed Mursi before he was deposed on July 3.

The security forces have made no secret of launching a ferocious crackdown on Mursi's Muslim Brotherhood, arresting its top leaders on charges of inciting political violence as well as around 2,000 other Islamists.

Many activists fear the army could turn its sights on other groups who worked for Mubarak's overthrow in 2011 hoping to establish an open civilian democracy in Egypt.

"These are fake accusations," rights lawyer Gamal Eid told Reuters. "(The complaint) is from people who know that it is false but who try to silence activists' demands for the realisation of the demands of the revolution."

Separately, a leftist lawyer accused of belonging to a secret organisation and spreading lies about the military appeared before military prosecutors in Suez, but was later released, judicial sources said.

Haitham Mohamedeen, a rights activist who belongs to the Revolutionary Socialist movement, a group critical of the army, was arrested in Suez on Thursday.

The accusations against him included belonging to a secret organisation with the aim of attacking state institutions and the military, a judicial source at the military prosecutor's office in Suez said.

It was not clear whether the case against him had been dropped.

In another case, Egyptian journalist Ahmed Abu Deraa remained in detention after his arrest in North Sinai on Wednesday.

The military prosecutor accused him of spreading lies and giving military information to secret organisations, a source at the prosecutor's office said.

"The detention of Ahmed Abu Deraa harks back to the Mubarak era, when journalists faced formidable obstacles reporting on military activity in the Sinai peninsula," said Robert Mahoney, deputy director of the Committee to Protect Journalists.

(Reporting by Shadia Nasralla, additional reporting by Tom Perry; Editing by Kevin Liffey and Sonya Hepinstall)

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