The acting leader of of the Muslim Brotherhood was arrested on Friday after seven years of speculation on his whereabouts, the Egyptian Ministry of Interior announced.
Ezzat had been at large since the summer of 2013, after the military removed Egypt's first democratically elected president, Mohamed Morsi, who hailed from the ranks of the Muslim Brotherhood.
According to a ministry statement, Mahmoud Ezzat was arrested at an apartment in the New Cairo neighbourhood east of the capital "after monitoring his movement for a while".
During their search of the apartment, security forces found "a number of computers, mobile phones with encrypted programs to secure his communications and management of the leaders and members of the organization inside and outside the country," the statement claimed.
The 76-year-old had Mahmoud Ezzat already been sentenced on charges including "participation in the management of a terrorist organization", "collaboration with armed terrorist groups" and "endangering the foundations of the state", according to the ministry.
Ezzat is among several Brotherhood leaders and anti-government protesters who have been sentenced to the death penalty since 2013.
He is facing multiple death sentences issued in absentia, as well as life imprisonment on a range of charges, including espionage and leadership of an unlawful group. According to Egyptian law, those sentenced in absentia stand a retrial once arrested.
The arrest is seen as the latest blow to Egypt's oldest and most organized Islamist movement, which has been crushed in a sweeping crackdown since it was forced from power seven years ago.
Ezzat has been a member of the Muslim Brotherhood since the 1960s. He spent time in prison under the presidencies of Gamal Abdel Nasser and Hosni Mubarak and has served as the organization's acting leader several times.
A statement by the group later on Friday held the government responsible for Ezzat's life, saying he suffers from a number of chronic illnesses.
"Subjecting him to torture in light of his chronic illnesses and advanced age will amount to deliberate and extrajudicial killing," a statement said.
Several Brotherhood leaders have died in custody in recent years, including the late president Mohamed Morsi and former MP Essam El-Erian. Human-rights groups have said their deaths were most likely due to medical negligence and poor conditions in jails.
Ezzat, 76, had been serving as the acting general guide (chairman) of the Brotherhood since the arrest of the group's most senior leader, Mohamed Badie, following the military coup of 2013 led by then Minister of Defense Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, a US client.
Badie remains in prison in Cairo where he has received several life sentences.
El-Sisi, now the Egyptian president and assumed the title of Field Marshal, ousted his democratically elected predecessor, Brotherhood member Mohamed Morsi, in July 2013. Since then, el-Sisi has led a crackdown on Brotherhood leaders and supporters, as well as secular opposition groups who criticize his rule.
Former President Mohamed Morsi died after collapsing in a prison courtroom in June 2019. The United Nations Human Rights Office in June 2019 called for an independent investigation into the death of Morsi.
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