CAIRO // Egypt's chief prosecutor yesterday ordered an investigation into the leaders of the country's opposition after a lawyer accused them of incitement to overthrow Mohammed Morsi's government, a prosecution official said.
The order, issued by an appointee of Mr Morsi, is likely to aggravate political tensions that have led into street violence, most recently surrounding the newly passed but divisive constitution.
The accusation, filed last month, alleged that Mohammed ElBaradei, a Nobel Prize laureate and former head of the UN nuclear agency, along with Amr Moussa, a former foreign minister, and Hamdeen Sabahi, a former presidential candidate, campaigned to seek Mr Morsi's overthrow.
The inquiry does not necessarily mean charges will be levelled but it is unusual for state prosecutors to investigate such broad charges against high-profile figures.
Yara Khallaf, a spokeswoman for Mr Moussa, said there were no official charges or summoning for investigation, declining to comment on the accusation.
Emad Abu Ghazi, the secretary general of the opposition party Mr ElBaradei heads, said he had no details about the investigation but that the accusations and inquiry were "an indication of a tendency toward a police state and the attempt to eliminate political opponents".
Mr Abu Ghazi said the former regime of Hosni Mubarak dealt in the same way with the opposition. There was no immediate comment from Mr ElBaradei and Mr Sabahi.
Egypt's legal and parliamentary affairs minister announced his resignation yesterday, the day after Mr Morsi vowed a government reshuffle to tackle the country's troubled economy. Mohammed Mahsoub said he was stepping down because "many policies and efforts contradict my personal convictions", according to his letter published on the Facebook page belonging to a leader of his moderate Islamist Wasat party. He also criticised the government's failure to recover funds allegedly embezzled by members of Mubarak's regime.
His resignation came two days after that of Mr Morsi's communications minister, Hany Mahmud. Mr Mahsoub, Wasat's deputy head, had backed Mr Morsi against the secular-leaning opposition through a deep political crisis over a new constitution that became law this week.
Weeks of protests and violent clashes preceded the referendum this month on the constitution, which was drafted by an Islamist-dominated panel boycotted by Christians and liberals.
In a speech on Wednesday, Morsi hailed the constitution and said he was mulling ministerial changes. "I will deploy all my efforts to boost the Egyptian economy... and I will make all the changes necessary for this task," Mr Morsi said.
Egypt's prime minister may replace as many as eight ministers next week as part of Mr Morsi's plan to reshuffle the government ahead of a parliamentary election early next year, according to cabinet sources. The reshuffle is likely to affect service ministries and possibly one ministry with an economics portfolio, the sources said.
The service ministries that may be reshuffled include those of communications, transport, local development, electricity, petroleum, supplies, and internal trade, they said, adding between six and eight ministries were likely to be affected.
Also yesterday, the state prosecutor ordered that Mubarak be transferred to a military hospital after his health deteriorated, a source at the prosecutor's office said. Mubarak, serving a life sentence over the killings of protesters, was briefly taken to hospital on December 19 for scans after he fell in his prison bathroom and hurt his head. Mubarak, 84, will be returned to prison after he is treated.
His lawyer said he was transferred to the military hospital after fracturing a rib in the fall in his prison clinic. He said he also suffered from lung complications and dizziness. "The health condition is deteriorating to some extent due to the president's fall the week before last," lawyer Mohamed Abdel Razek said.
A court in June sentenced him to life in jail for failing to prevent the killings of protesters during the 18-day revolt that ended his three-decade rule in February 2011. Some 850 people died in the uprising.
Mubarak spent nearly a month in hospital after he fell unconscious on June 19, with state media declaring him clinically dead on arrival. But medical sources said he appeared to have fallen into a temporary coma.
*Associated Press and Agence France-Presse