Cairo: Egyptian security authorities referred 49 people to the public prosecutor on suspicion of plotting attacks on behalf of Lebanon's Shiite Muslim Hezbollah group, the state-run Middle East News Agency reported.
An investigation by the state security agency showed that the pro-Iranian Hezbollah had sent men to Egypt to recruit agents and plot "acts of aggression," MENA today quoted the prosecutor as saying.
The suspected Hezbollah agents and their recruits were planning illegal activities that included obtaining explosives and forging identifications, the prosecutor added, citing the investigation. Hezbollah spokesman Ebrahim Al Mousawi in Beirut couldn’t be reached for comment.
The incident is likely to further strain relations between predominantly Sunni Egypt and Hezbollah. The group criticised the government in Cairo for blocking its Rafah border crossing to the Gaza Strip during Israel’s three-week offensive on the Palestinian enclave in December and January in response to rocket attacks from Hamas.
Egypt, a close US ally, has accused Iran of using proxy groups such as Hezbollah to increase its dominance in the Middle East. The two countries haven’t had full diplomatic ties since 1979, after the late Egyptian President Anwar Sadat gave refuge to the deposed Iranian shah.
"We cannot exclude the political aspect of the case," Diaa Rashwan, an Egyptian political analyst, said in a telephone interview. "It has to do with Egypt’s foreign policy and the tension with Iran and Hezbollah. The remarks of the prosecution cannot be taken as the truth. The truth will be decided by the courts."
The prosecution will decide whether to refer the 49 suspects to trial. They are led by a Lebanese man named Sami Shehab, while the majority of the rest are Egyptians, said Montasser Al Zayyat, an Egyptian lawyer known for representing Islamists.
Al Zayyat, who said he represents Shehab in the case, said Egyptian authorities had barred him from the interrogations of the suspects. The public prosecutor said his office hasn’t received requests from any lawyer seeking to attend the questioning.