DUBAI (Reuters) - The United Arab Emirates has rejected a request by Egypt to free 11 of its citizens held on suspicion of training Islamists in how to overthrow governments, local newspapers reported on Saturday.
Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood last week said some of the detainees were its members and demanded they be freed, saying they had been wrongfully arrested.
Relations between Egypt and the UAE soured after veteran Egyptian ruler Hosni Mubarak - a long-time Gulf ally - was toppled in 2011. The UAE has voiced distrust of the Muslim Brotherhood that helped propel Egyptian President Mohamed Mursi to power last year.
Egypt sent a presidential aide and its intelligence chief, General Mohamed Shehata, to the UAE for talks following the arrests.
“They (UAE officials) explained that a suspect cannot be released before the case goes to court,” the English-language Gulf News reported, adding the Egyptian delegation was told the UAE had a robust legal system.
The Arabic-language al-Khaleej newspaper said the 11 suspects were under investigation by state security prosecutors over “serious charges”.
Citing an unnamed source, Al-Khaleej last week said there were close ties between Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood and leaders of the Islamists in detention. It said the detained Egyptians had given “a number of courses and lectures ... on elections and ways to change systems of government in Arab countries”.
The oil-producing UAE arrested about 60 suspected Islamists last year, accusing them of plotting to undermine governments in the Gulf region.
Egyptian Foreign Minister Mohamed Kamel Amr, at a news conference in Riyadh with his Saudi counterpart, Prince Saud al-Faisal, on Saturday said Egypt does not interfere in the affairs of other countries.
“This is a firm position by Egypt and what happens in Egypt concerns only the Egyptian people and we have no interest in transferring what happened in Egypt to another country,” Amr said. “Egypt has no interest in exporting any of that.”
The Brotherhood has sought to reassure Gulf states that it has no plan to push for political change beyond Egypt’s borders. Mahmoud Ghozlan, a Brotherhood spokesman in Cairo, rejected the charge that the 11 were seeking to destabilise the UAE.
The son of one of those arrested said his father, Ali Sonbol, was a doctor and not involved in political activities.
Last month, UAE Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed al-Nahayan summoned Egypt’s ambassador over claims carried by Egyptian media that the UAE was behind a plot against Egypt’s leadership, saying they were “fabricated”.
Thanks to their state-sponsored cradle-to-grave welfare systems, the UAE and other Gulf Arab monarchies have largely avoided the unrest that has unseated long-serving Arab rulers elsewhere in the past two years.
Reporting by Sami Aboudi; and Angus McDowall in Riyadh, Editing by Rosalind Russell