CAIRO, FEB. 18 -- Egypt's prosecutor today asked the death sentence in absentia for the eldest son of the late president Gamal Abdel Nasser, who is accused of murder and conspiracy in connection with an underground cell called Egypt's Revolution that attacked Israeli and American diplomats here.
Khaled Abdel Nasser, 38, an engineer, left Egypt last fall when the police began arresting suspects and reportedly is in Yugoslavia. In a news conference, prosecutor Mohammed Guindi said he would ask Interpol, the international police organization, to have him returned to Egypt.
Nasser's indictment and the demand for his execution not only came as a blow to the Nasser family, but shocked Cairo's intellectual community. Although news of Nasser's alleged involvement with the group has been known for months, it was widely assumed that his participation was marginal.
Observers predicted a strong reaction to the court action, especially because of the unpopularity of the Israelis as they continue their crackdown on Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
Egypt's Revolution claimed it was targeting agents of the Israeli intelligence service, Mossad, and the CIA and that it was trying to rid Egypt of its oppressors, the United States and Israel.
The indictment "will raise a lot of internal controversy," said Tahsin Bashir, an adviser to the Foreign Ministry and an analyst of Egyptian affairs. Others predicted there would be antigovernment demonstrations.
The prosecutor also indicted 19 other men, including two Army officers, an Air Force officer, a nephew of Gamal Abdel Nasser and the son of one of the "free officers" who overthrew the monarchy in 1952.
Of the 20 men indicted, only nine are in custody. Eleven face the death penalty.
Khaled Abdel Nasser is accused of having led the group and in particular of having financed its purchases of arms and other material.
"Under the name Egypt's Revolution, these men assassinated and attempted to assassinate diplomats with the aim of destabilizing the security situation in Egypt and spoiling relations between Egypt" and several countries, Guindi said in a news conference.
Egypt's Revolution began operating in 1984 and carried out one attack a year. In 1984, it shot at an Israeli security guard in Cairo, wounding him. In 1985, the group assassinated an Israeli administrative attache. In 1986, a young woman working at the Israeli Embassy was killed.
Three American diplomats were attacked as they rode to work last May. Gunmen opened fire on the Americans' car at a major intersection, but the Americans made a swift U-turn and evaded them.
Four months later, a member of Egypt's Revolution went to the American Embassy and informed on the group, according to Egyptian officials. In one night, Egyptian police arrested about 16 suspects, including one of the group's leaders, a former typist at the Egyptian Embassy in London.
At the time, however, diplomats doubted that the case would get to trial because of its sensitivity.
"It's awkward for the regime," said Mohammed Sayed Ahmad, a left-wing writer. "Khaled is, after all, Nasser's son and the regime is an offspring of Nasser. Its legitimacy goes back to Nasser." In addition, western diplomats suggested that the involvement of three officers signaled dissent in the military that the government would want to cover up.
Some opponents of the U.S. presence here have charged that the United States pressed Egypt to prosecute.
A U.S. Embassy spokeswoman declined comment on the case, saying it was an "internal matter."