Egypt announced a criminal investigation on Saturday against deposed Islamist President Mohammed Morsi, with prosecutors saying they were examining complaints of spying, inciting violence and ruining the economy.
Egypt's first freely elected leader has been held at an undisclosed location since the army removed him from power on July 3, but has not yet been charged with any crime. In recent days, Washington has called for him to be freed and for the authorities to stop arresting leaders of his Muslim Brotherhood.
The public prosecutor's office said in a statement it had received complaints against Morsi, eight other named Islamist figures including the Brotherhood's leader, Mohamed Badie, and others it did not identify.
The military says it deposed Morsi in a justified response to popular demand after millions of people demonstrated against him. The Brotherhood says it was a coup that reversed democracy.
Turmoil in the most populous Arab state has alarmed the United States and other Western donors. Egypt straddles the Suez Canal and signed a U.S.-brokered peace treaty with Israel in 1979.
Complaints such as those against Morsi are a first step in the criminal process, allowing prosecutors to begin an investigation that can lead to charges. Announcing the step was unusual: typically prosecutors wait until charges are filed.
The prosecutors did not say who had made the complaints. Egyptian law allows them to investigate complaints from police or any member of the public.
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Badie and several other Brotherhood officials already face charges for inciting violence that were announced earlier this week, but few of them have been arrested.
Asked about the announcement of criminal investigations against Morsi, Badie and others, U.S. State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said, "I can't speak to the specifics of this investigation, but generally speaking, we have made clear the need to follow due process, respect the rule of law, and avoid politicized arrests and investigations."