Egypt's former prime minister has been held for questioning in an anti-corruption crackdown targeting the inner circle of Hosni Mubarak, the country's ousted ruler, in an effort to placate a renewed surge of popular anger.
Mr Nazif
© AFPMr Nazif is alleged by prosecutors to have benefited from the award of a multi-million contract to a German firm
Ahmed Nazif, who served as prime minister from 2004 until the Mubarak regime was swept away by protests earlier this year, is alleged by prosecutors to have benefited from the award of a multi-million contract to a German firm.

Mr Mubarak, who has been living in seclusion in the resort town Sharm el-Sheikh since he left office, has also been ordered to present himself by questioning by a justice ministry panel, along with his sons Alaa and Gamal.

Zakaria Amin, his former chief of staff, has been detained along with Mr Nazif.

Egypt's anti-corruption crackdown appeared to be a response to mounting protests against the military government which took power after Mr Mubarak was forced out of office.

Weekly protests demanding Mr Mubarak be tried for corruption and the use of lethal force against protesters have attracted tens of thousands of demonstrators.

Early on Saturday, the protests snowballed into a deadly clash with soldiers who were trying to clear an overnight demonstration at Cairo's Tahrir Square. Defiant protesters, who accuse the country's military government of complicity with the former president, remain in the square, although the military had pledged to disperse them.

Egyptian front pages were dominated by complex webs of regime cronies that formerly bestrode the Cairo business scene as commercial titans.

One mock up showed the 82-year old leader in a prison suit with shackles on his legs.

Mr Mubarak was summoned for questioning soon after al-Arabiya, the pan-Arab television station, aired an audio message in which the 82-year-old complained he was the victim of a smear campaign.

Political experts said the interim military government, headed by Field Marshall Mohamed Tantawi, had very little choice but to bow to popular anger.

"There is definitely a feeling of unease in the whole country. The armed forces have been slow to act, there are some measures which could have been taken earlier," said Mustafa Kamel al-Sayyed, professor of political science at Cairo University.

"If Mubarak is not brought to justice, there will be more demonstrations."

Egyptian authorities have, however, continued to crack down on dissent.

Maikel Nabil, a blogger and campaigner against conscription who was arrested on March 28, was sentenced to three years in prison today for having criticised the armed forces.

Gamal Eid, his lawyer, said "the verdict was handed out almost in secret."

Posts and comments on Facebook were used as evidence against Mr Nabil.