Prosecutors will investigate allegations that Egypt’s ousted president escaped from prison during the 2011 revolution with help from the Palestinian militant group Hamas.
Chief prosecutor Hesham Barakat has received testimonies from a court in the Suez Canal city of Ismailia that will be the base for a probe into the jailbreak by Mohammed Morsi and more than 30 other Muslim Brotherhood leaders.
The question of whether Hamas helped them escape amid the chaos surrounding the 2011 uprising that toppled Hosni Mubarak has been debated in the media for months.
It proved a political headache for Mr Morsi during his one-year rule as Egypt’s first freely elected president. Critics in the opposition and judiciary have suggested that proof of foreign intervention on Egyptian soil could lead to treason charges.
The issue has taken on more significance since Mr Morsi was ousted on July 3 by the military following a wave of protests in which millions of Egyptians called on him to step down.
The toppled Islamist leader has been kept at an undisclosed Defence Ministry facility and no charges against him have been announced.
Hamas has denied any role in the January 29, 2011, jailbreak at Wadi el-Natroun prison north-west of Cairo.
Mr Morsi and other Brotherhood leaders have said local residents helped them escape after most inmates left the jail.
The investigation stems from a court case against a former inmate, but judge Khaled Mahgoub turned what was in effect a low-profile trial into a public inquiry into the escape by Mr Morsi and the other Brotherhood officials.
A series of prison officials, police and intelligence agents testified, some behind closed doors.
A string of top police, prison and intelligence officials have blamed Hamas, a close ally of Mr Morsi’s Brotherhood.
They claim the militant group sent fighters from the Gaza Strip to join Bedouins from the Sinai Peninsula to storm prisons and break out the jailed Hamas members.
News of the intended investigation came a day after the authorities issued arrest warrants for the Brotherhood’s spiritual leader, Mohammed Badie, and nine other Islamists accused of inciting violence after deadly clashes.
The warrants drew an angry response from the Brotherhood, which said “dictatorship is back” and insisted it will never work with the interim rulers.
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called Egypt’s Foreign Minister Mohamed Kamel Ali Amr to express his “deep concern about continued detentions in Egypt and arrest warrants issued against Muslim Brotherhood leaders and others”.
Mr Badie’s whereabouts are not known, but many of the others are believed to be taking refuge near a sit-in by the group’s supporters outside the Rabaah al-Adawiya Mosque in a Cairo district that is a Brotherhood stronghold.
Security agencies have already jailed five leaders of the Brotherhood, including Mr Badie’s powerful deputy, Khairat el-Shaiter, and shut down its media outlets.
The prosecutor general’s office said Mr Badie, another deputy, Mahmoud Ezzat, el-Beltagy and popular preacher Safwat Hegazy are suspected of instigating Monday’s clashes with security forces outside a Republican Guard building that killed 54 people – most Morsi supporters – in the worst bloodshed since he was ousted.
The Islamists have accused the troops of gunning down the protesters, while the military blamed armed backers of Morsi for attempting to storm a military building.
The arrest warrants highlight the armed forces’ zero-tolerance policy toward the Brotherhood, which was banned under authoritarian leader Hosni Mubarak.