CAIRO (AP) — Egyptian prosecutors intend to investigate an ultraconservative lawmaker whom police say was caught in his car "violating public decency" with a woman, the state news agency reported Saturday. He denies the allegation and Islamists say the case is aimed at defaming them ahead of upcoming presidential runoff elections.
The incident, widely reported in the local media, comes at a crucial time for Islamists rallying behind Muslim Brotherhood candidate Mohamed Morsi, who is set to face former regime figure and ex-military man Ahmed Shafiq in a June 16-17 vote.
The allegations are especially controversial for ultraconservative Salafi Muslims, who advocate a strict interpretation of Islam and the segregation of unrelated men and women. The accused lawmaker and sheikh, Ali Wanees, ran for parliament on a coalition led by the Salafi-led Nour Party, which controls 25 percent of parliament.
Earlier in the year, the party was forced to issue an embarrassing and apologetic statement after one of their lawmakers was reported to have lied to cover up a nose job, claiming that he sustained injuries to his heavily bandaged face from a carjacking and beating. He was kicked out of the party and resigned from parliament.
This time, though, Salafi leaders are backing Wanees, calling the police report "fraudulent." He could not be immediately reached for comment.
According to security officials with access to the police report, four police officers say a vehicle was parked in a dark area along an agricultural road linking the city of Banha to Cairo on Thursday evening. The officials wished to remain anonymous because they were not authorized to speak to the media.
In their report, the officers say they approached the car and saw a woman in a full face veil sitting on top of a man who was touching and caressing her. They say that when they knocked on the car window and demanded the man show his national ID and car registration, he yelled back, "I am Ali Wanees, member of parliament, you sons of dogs."
Wanees was briefly detained before police realized he was a lawmaker and has parliamentary immunity. The officers filed a report against Wanees, saying that he was caught "violating public decency." Egypt's MENA news agency say state prosecutors have requested that his immunity be lifted so they can investigate.
In a video posted on his website, Wanees says the 23-year old woman is his niece and that the two had been running errands when she fell ill, forcing him to pull the car over.