Egypt frees senior Brotherhood leader from jail

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CAIRO, Oct 29 (Reuters) Egyptian authorities released Muslim Brotherhood leader Mahmoud Ghozlan and two other senior members today after a court ordered them freed, security sources and Brotherhood officials said.

But police also detained at least 15 students affiliated with the Islamist opposition group in the Nile Delta who had been protesting against police harassment at the campus gates of a state university, the Brotherhood said.

Ghozlan, a senior leader and member of the group's executive Guidance Council, had been held since March after being detained by police during a crackdown ahead of a referendum on constitutional amendments.

Mustafa al-Ghoneimy and Mohey Hamed -- both senior members in the group's provincial hierarchy in the Nile Delta who were arrested alongside Ghozlan -- were also freed.

A Cairo court yesterday ordered the men freed, but Egyptian police frequently disregard court rulings ordering detained members of the country's political opposition set free. Sunday's ruling was the third release order for the men, Brotherhood lawyer Abdel Moniem Abdel Maqsoud said.

Security sources gave the number of students detained at Monday's protest at Menoufia University as 25, and said the students had staged protests complaining that student elections had been rigged in favour of pro-government candidates.

The government says the Muslim Brotherhood is an illegal organisation and regularly detains groups of members without charge, often for months at a time.

In many cases, the authorities renew 15-day detention orders for several months and then release Brotherhood members without charging them.

But members of the group standing as independents hold one fifth of the seats in parliament, and the Brotherhood has an office in Cairo and can operate within limits.

REUTERS SKB BD2033

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