Assem Abdel-Maged Al-Gamaa Al-Islamiya leader (Photo: Al-Ahram)
The leader of the hard-line Islamic group Al-Gamaa Al-Islamiya along with tens of Muslim Brotherhood figures has been referred to trial by Egyptian prosecutors on violence charges stemming from last summer's protests that led to the ouster of president Mohamed Morsi.
Assem Abdel-Maged, whose Al-Gamaa Al-Islamiya is a major supporter of the pro-Morsi coalition National Alliance to Support Legitimacy (NASL), faces charges of killing and injuring protesters in the Upper Egypt city of Assiut during the million-strong demonstrations that began on 30 June and culminated in Morsi's overthrow three days later.
Thirty Brotherhood figures have been charged as well.
The defendants are also accused of violence and sabotage, as well as "disrupting public security", judicial sources told Ahram Online.
Abdel-Maged, who authorities say fled to Qatar following Morsi's ouster, completed a 25-year jail sentence in 2006 for his role in the 1981 assassination of former president Anwar Sadat.
Qatar – a strong backer of Morsi during his year in power and one of the few Arab states that has since criticised his removal by the military – has been a refuge for several Brotherhood figures sought by Egyptian authorities.
Last December Abdel-Maged appeared on the Qatar-based Al-Jazeera network to condemn the army, saying that Morsi's ouster had been "a major mistake" that had driven Egypt to the "edge of a precipice," and that pro-Brotherhood protesters would break up the "coup."
His TV appearance prompted Egyptian authorities to ask Interpol for help in tracking him down. Egypt and Qatar don't have a policy of extradition.
Al-Gamaa Al-Islamiya renounced violence a decade ago after involvement in an Islamic insurgency that grew in the 1990s and was later stamped out by then-president Hosni Mubarak.
Egypt's interim government has launched a harsh crackdown on Morsi's Brotherhood, arresting most of the group's senior leaders on charges including inciting violence and terrorism.
At least 1,400 people, mostly Islamists, have been killed in clashes with security forces and civilian opponents since Morsi's 3 July overthrow, according to Amnesty International.
Scores of police and soldiers have also been killed in recent militant attacks that have spread from the Sinai Peninsula to other parts of the country, including Cairo.