Muslim Brotherhood's acting leader Mahmoud Ezzat was believed to have fled the country but after seven years of speculation on his whereabouts, he has been arrested in Cairo.

Mahmoud Ezzatt of the Muslim Brotherhood attends a news conference in Cairo, May 30, 2010.
Mahmoud Ezzatt of the Muslim Brotherhood attends a news conference in Cairo, May 30, 2010. (Reuters)

Egyptian police have arrested a high-level leader of Muslim Brotherhood after years under the radar of officials.

Investigators recently learned that Mahmoud Ezzat, the acting Supreme Guide of the organisation, was hiding in an apartment on the outskirts of Cairo, an Interior Ministry statement said on Friday.

After searching the apartment, the police found computers and mobile phones with encrypted software that allowed the 76-year-old Ezzat to communicate with group members in Egypt and abroad, the statement said. Egypt banned the Brotherhood and declared it a terror outfit soon after the 2013.

Documents bearing the group's “destructive plans” were also found, according to police. The statement did not say when the raid took place.

A picture distributed by the Interior Ministry and published by Egyptian newspaper Al Youm al Sabaa showed a gaunt and frail-looking Ezzat wearing a striped T-shirt.

It wasn't immediately clear if Ezzat had an attorney.

READ MORE: Who are the Muslim Brotherhood?

Muslim Brotherhood veteran

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. 

Morsi's short-lived rule proved divisive and provoked mass protests nationwide.

Ezzat was named the group’s acting leader in August 2013 after serving as deputy to former leader Mohamed Badie, and was seen as a hardliner within the group. 

He was convicted of several terror-related crimes and sentenced twice to death in absentia. 

He was believed to have fled the country along with many of the group's leaders following the crackdown on their organisation.

Ezzat, a member of the Brotherhood since the 1960s, spent time in prison under the presidencies of both Gamal Abdel Nasser and Hosni Mubarak, and has served as the organisation’s acting leader several times.

READ MORE: ‘Manufacturing dissent’: The Egyptian media’s role in the 2013 coup

Sisi-driven alienation

In 2019, US President Donald Trump proposed to designate the Brotherhood as terrorist organisation, decidng on the move after meeting Egyptian autocrat Abdel Fattah el Sisi in Washington.

The organisation started as a response to British imperialism in Egypt but today is a loosely-knit network of Islamic organisations that advocate reforming societies and governments to be in line with Islamic values. Some of these groups are official political parties in Morocco, Kuwait and Indonesia.

In Egypt, as in several Gulf states, the Brotherhood is banned as a terrorist organisation. That’s despite the Egyptian branch of the group rejecting violence more than four decades ago.

Following the 2011 Egyptian revolution, the Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party won both parliamentary and presidential elections. 

Brotherhood's Morsi ruled Egypt for a year as its first and only freely elected president, until he was overthrown by a military coup led by Sisi in 2013. 

READ MORE: Jordan dissolves its Muslim Brotherhood branch

Source: TRTWorld and agencies