Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah confirmed on Friday that a man Egypt is holding on suspicion of planning attacks there is a member of the Lebanese Shiite movement, but denied seeking to destabilize the country.
He was referring to Sami Shihab, one of 49 people being held on suspicion of belonging to Hezbollah and of calling for rebellion against Egypt’s leadership.
"All the accusations are lies and a fabrication aimed at setting the people of Egypt against Hezbollah," Nasrallah said, speaking on the group’s al-Manar television.
Nasrallah said Shihab, a Lebanese citizen, was in Egypt on a "logistical mission" related to the Gaza Strip.
Egypt’s state prosecutor on Wednesday accused Hezbollah of plotting to carry out attacks inside the country.
"The state prosecutor has received a statement from state security which shows that leaders from the Lebanese Hezbollah have called on its cadres to recruit members to its movement," according to a statement from the prosecutor obtained by AFP.
It charged that the campaign was launched with "the aim of carrying out acts of aggression inside the country," while Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah had appointed members to carry out such actions.
"If helping the Palestinians is a crime, I acknowledge this crime. It is not the first time brothers from Hezbollah have been arrested," said Nasrallah.
"The Egyptian regime is the one that should be condemned because it is the one working day and night to destroy the tunnels, which are the one artery that supplies Gaza with life," he added.
Shihab’s brother, Hassan, was quoted in the pan-Arabic daily al-Hayat on Friday as saying "the family knew nothing about Sami’s activities before members of Hezbollah visited the family house and told us that he was a member of the resistance and he had ties with the brothers in Palestine."
State media reported that Shihab was suspected of heading a Hezbollah unit responsible for neighboring states and that Palestinians and Sudanese were among those arrested.
The suspects are also accused of espionage, forging official documents and preparing explosives.
The detention may be renewed every 15 days for six months, when the prosecution must either charge them or release them.
Hezbollah, which is backed by Egypt’s regional rivals Iran and Syria, is a vocal supporter of Hamas in Gaza and has lashed out at Egypt for closing its crossing with the Palestinian enclave.
In December, after Israel launched a devastating offensive in Gaza, Nasrallah called on Egyptians to take to the streets in their millions to force open the crossing and urged Egyptian army commanders to resign in protest.
Egyptian officials have accused Nasrallah of fomenting sedition and state media branded him an "Iranian agent."
Egypt, a mostly Sunni Muslim country, has accused the Shiite government of Iran and Hezbollah of conspiring to spread Shiite ideology in the region.
The general prosecutor listed "spreading Shiite ideology" as one of the aims of the detained men.
Egypt and Iran broke off relations a year after Islamist revolutionaries overthrew Iran’s pro-Western shah in 1979.
Iran opposed Cairo’s 1979 peace treaty with Israel and named a street in Tehran after the assassin of Anwar Sadat, the Egyptian president killed by an Egyptian Islamist militant in 1981.
(Alarabiya.net and Agencies)