Egypt clash

A supporter of ousted Egyptian president Mohamed Morsi is detained by police during clashes with security forces. (Ahmed Gamil / Associated Press / January 25, 2014)

CAIRO -- An Egyptian employee of the U.S. Embassy has been detained by police since Jan. 25, an embassy spokesman said Wednesday.

The jailed staffer was identified as Ahmed Eleiba. Associates said his work involved monitoring developments concerning political Islam in Egypt -- a sensitive subject in the wake of the popularly supported military coup that deposed Islamist president Mohamed Morsi in July.

The incident reflected an increasingly aggressive stance by the Egyptian police and judiciary toward anyone suspected of even a tangential connection with the Muslim Brotherhood or any other Islamist group. The Brotherhood has been formally designated a terrorist organization by the interim government.

Embassy spokesman Mofid Deak said embassy officials had been in touch with the Egyptian government and had sought additional information about the staffer’s case. He said that as far as he knew, no formal charges had been brought against Eleiba.

Thousands of the Brotherhood’s supporters have been jailed and more than 1,000 killed in clashes with security forces since July. But in recent weeks, accusations of ties to the movement have ensnared a widening circle of Egyptians and foreigners.

An internationally known Egyptian scholar of political Islam, Emad Shahin, was last month accused of espionage, a charge he called “far-fetched.” And 20 journalists, four of them foreigners, face trial next week on terror-related charges, seemingly stemming from routine journalistic coverage of street demonstrations by Morsi supporters.

At least three of the accused, from the Qatar-based news channel Al Jazeera English, have been detained since Dec. 29. They are Australian Peter Greste, Canadian-Egyptian Mohamed Fahmy and an Egyptian colleague, Mohamed Baher.

A Dutch journalist left Egypt earlier this month after learning she was on the prosecutor’s list in the case, and two Britons named in the indictment had departed Egypt before the charges were disclosed.

All of the accused strongly deny any wrongdoing. Human rights groups and media advocacy organizations have denounced Egyptian authorities’ arrests of journalists and other curbs on freedom of expression.

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laura.king@latimes.com

Twitter: @laurakingLAT