Egyptian state security prosecutors are questioning 35 men police accuse of plotting to overthrow the government and having contacts with al-Qaeda, a lawyer for the men and a security source said on Saturday.
Lawyer Montasser al-Zayat said the 35 men were part of a group of up to 40 arrested in April and secretly kept by authorities in state security offices until their transfer to state security prosecution late on Friday.
The security source said the men had been arrested in Beni Suef and Qalyoubia provinces.
Zayat said authorities had charged the men with forming an illegal organisation and plotting to overthrow the government, among other charges, and have accused them of being in contact with al-Qaeda.
The security source added that some of the men were thought to be planning to send recruits to fight American forces in Iraq.
Zayat said the men deny all the charges.
The lawyer said he had withdrawn from the proceedings after objecting to the men being kept in state security offices, arguing this constituted a form of psychological duress.
He added that a number of them had said they had been tortured, including by electric shocks.
International and local rights groups say torture is systematic in Egyptian jails and police stations.
Three weeks ago, Mohamed Hakaima, an al-Qaeda militant and former leader of Egypt’s Gama’a Islamiya militant group, called for attacks on Israel and Western targets in Egypt, in support of the Palestinian Islamist group Hamas.
Egyptian experts on Islamist groups say they doubt al-Qaeda has an organised presence in Egypt, or that Hakaima, who is believed to be in Afghanistan, has followers in the country.