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Former aide to ousted Egyptian president Mursi released from jail-relatives

Khaled al-Qazzaz, Mursi’s former foreign affairs secretary, was arrested in July 2013

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A former aide to ousted Egyptian President Mohammad Mursi of the Muslim Brotherhood Islamist movement was released on Sunday for health reasons after 18 months in detention without charge, relatives said.

Khaled al-Qazzaz, Mursi’s former foreign affairs secretary, was arrested in July 2013 along with the elected president and eight other senior aides when the army removed the Brotherhood from power following mass protests against its rule.

Egyptian officials were not immediately available for comment on Qazzaz, who is one of the only Brotherhood figures to be released from jail since security forces killed hundreds of supporters of the group and arrested hundreds more.

Relatives said he was being held under guard at a hospital for the last two months after his health began to deteriorate following more than 400 days in solitary confinement. A U.N. panel said last year he was held unlawfully and should be released.

In a separate case, speculation has been growing that Egypt will release three journalists from Qatar-based Al Jazeera television who have been in prison for about a year on charges of aiding a terrorist group -- a reference to the Brotherhood.

A court has ordered their retrial.

Egypt has come under fire from human rights groups and Western countries over the Al Jazeera case.

Criticism from Western states over one of the toughest crackdowns in the Brotherhood’s history has faded since then army chief Abdel Fattah al-Sisi toppled Mursi, and went on to become elected president.

Qazzaz’s relatives declined to comment on whether there may have been political motives behind his release.

“I’m not a politician, I’m just a wife and a mother and I’m just happy my husband is released and I hope we can be reunited soon,” Qazzaz’s Canadian wife, Sarah Attia, told Reuters by telephone.