SINGAPORE (AFP) – Egypt’s top Islamic cleric on Tuesday backed the arrest of more than 500 supporters of the blacklisted Muslim Brotherhood following clashes over the weekend on the anniversary of the country’s 2011 uprising.
“I am not sad for this outcome as such criminals ought to be prosecuted,” Egypt’s Grand Mufti Sheikh Shawky Allam told reporters in Singapore.
“I strongly condemn their actions as they are crimes that breach the laws of our country,” said Sheikh Allam during a four-day visit to the Southeast Asian city-state at the invitation of the local Islamic Religious Council.
“Those that have been arrested will be prosecuted legally. The reason they have been arrested is not political because they have transgressed the law,” the cleric added through an interpreter.
Egypt’s Interior Minister Mohamed Ibrahim on Monday said Egyptian security forces had arrested 516 “elements” of the Muslim Brotherhood, who were “involved in firing ammunition, planting explosives and bombing some facilities”.
The arrests come after 20 people, mostly demonstrators, were killed on Sunday when protesters clashed with security forces.
Conservatives had called for rallies against President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi’s government as Egypt marked the fourth anniversary of the toppling of ex-strongman Hosni Mubarak.
Supporters of Mubarak’s successor, the Muslim Brotherhood’s Mohamed Morsi, have regularly clashed with security forces since he was ousted by then army chief Sisi in July 2013.
More than 1,400 people have been killed in a government crackdown targeting Morsi supporters, while over 15,000 have been imprisoned since he was ousted.
Rights groups have repeatedly denounced the use of “excessive force” by the authorities to crush opposition rallies.
Sheikh Allam, who is Egypt’s highest Muslim authority, said Sisi’s government has taken efforts to “apply (the) rule of law to every citizen”.
“Any exceptional procedures in Egypt have been ratified by legal proceedings.”