Egypt's president adviser Essam el-Haddad
The United Arab Emirates has rejected a request from Egypt for the release of 11 Egyptian nationals detained for suspected links to Egypt's ruling Muslim Brotherhood, Gulf News newspaper reported Saturday.
The case has sparked a sharp deterioration of relations between Abu Dhabi and Cairo, which had already been strained since the election of Brotherhood candidate Mohamed Morsi to the Egyptian presidency in June 2012.
At a meeting in Dubai Wednesday, UAE Vice President and Prime Minister Sheikh Mohammad Bin Rashed Al-Maktoum told top Morsi adviser Essam Haddad and intelligence chief Mohammed Shahata that releasing the 11 without trial "is not possible," Gulf News reported.
"We have a strong court system and justice will take its course," the Egyptian delegation was told.
The 11 Egyptians arrested last month stand accused of leading an expatriate Brotherhood cell in the UAE that collected sensitive information and had links to Emirati nationals in custody on suspicion of plotting against national security.
But Brotherhood spokesman Mahmud Ghozlan told AFP in Cairo that the arrests were part of an "unjust campaign" against the expat Egyptians, most of whom are doctors or engineers.
Suggestion of regime change is extremely sensitive in the UAE and other Gulf States, which have been largely spared the upheaval of the Arab Spring that from early 2011 swept aside autocratic governments in the Middle East and North Africa.
During the past year, the UAE announced it had broken up several cells it said were plotting against the regime.
The UAE continues to ban all political parties.