Egypt detains men suspected of unorthodox beliefs

CAIRO, Oct 2 (Reuters) - Egyptian prosecutors are investigating a group of 14 detained men on possible charges of denigrating Islam by holding unorthodox beliefs, court sources said on Tuesday.

The men were arrested on Monday in the poor Cairo suburb of Matariya, where police seized books and tapes suspected of containing unconventional beliefs about Muslim pilgrimages, prayer and fasting.

State security prosecutors remanded 13 of the men in custody for 15 days on Tuesday. The leader of the alleged group, a 52-year-old government employee, was remanded in custody for the same period on Monday.

The charge of "denigrating the Islamic religion by spreading extreme ideas" carries a maximum penalty of five years in jail.

Egypt, a mainly Muslim country of 70 million, has tried a number of groups and individuals on the charges in recent years.

The arrests are seen as separate from the government's fight against radical Islamist political groups who took up arms against the rule of President Hosni Mubarak in the early 1990s.

In a separate case, two of 52 suspected homosexual men currently on trial are accused of "forming a group which aims to exploit the Islamic religion to propagate extremist ideas".

Egypt is home to al-Azhar mosque and university, regarded as one of Islam's highest religious authorities.