Mohamed El-Zawahri, elder brother of alleged Al-Qaeda leader Ayman El-Zawahri, condemned on Sunday what he described as the “smear campaign” being directed against him after certain media outlets reported that he had incited violence during Friday's clashes between military personnel and protesters in Cairo's Abbasiya district.
El-Zawahri had appeared in Abbasiya days before the Friday violence in the wake of earlier clashes, where he saw unknown assailants attack demonstrators staging a sit-in protest against military rule outside the defence ministry. Eleven protesters were killed in the melee.
After violence reignited in the same area a few days later, with thousands of additional demonstrators joining the fray, some linked El-Zawahri to the ongoing violence, in which a protester and a soldier were killed.
In a subsequent press release, El-Zawahri defended himself. "I did not do or say anything during my appearance in Abbasiya to incite violence against the army or call on protesters to march on defence ministry headquarters,” he stated.
"Some of the media are seeking to defame me, even though I spent 15 years in prison without facing charges or standing trial,” he added. “When I was tried, I was found not guilty by the Supreme Military court... on 19 March [of last year]. All the charges I have faced were phony.”
"Apparently, some of the defaming tactics used by the former regime have now been adopted by the media," El-Zawahri concluded. "I only visited the peaceful sit-in on Wednesday night to advise the protesters to protect lives after they were assaulted by thugs."
El-Zawahri was arrested and imprisoned in 1999 after being linked to the outlawed Al-Jihad organisation. In the early 1990s, he was slapped with a death sentence – later suspended – along with several other Islamist figures.