Egypt releases 16 Muslim Brotherhood members

Egypt's Criminal Court on Monday ordered the release of the banned Muslim Brotherhood's No. 3 leader and 15 others after 45 days in detention, the Islamist group and police said. The group's third-highest ranking member, Khayrat el-Shater, 55, the movement's chief strategist and a main financier, was arrested with other members on Dec. 14 in a crackdown after a protest by uniformed students that raised fears that the Islamist group was creating a military wing. The Interior Ministry had accused the arrested Brotherhood members of recruiting students at Al-Azhar University in Cairo, Egypt's foremost Islamic institute, and providing them with combat training, knives and chains. They also were accused of belonging to an outlawed organization and possessing publications to propagate its ideologies. Brotherhood member Abdel Moneim Mahmoud said the court dropped the charges and ordered the unconditional release of the 16 members. Egyptian police confirmed the order.