Arrests of political opposition continues, former presidential candidate Khaled Ali summoned for questioning

Former presidential candidate Khaled Ali was summoned for questioning amid a series of police raids targeting members of political groups and parties that has included over 30 arrests in recent days.

Ali, who is due back in Cairo from Rome on Monday evening, has been summoned to the district prosecutor’s office in Dokki on Tuesday for questioning, according to a statement by the Bread and Freedom Party.

A well-known lawyer, Ali was prominent in the judicial appeal over the government’s decision to cede the Red Sea Islands of Tiran and Sanafir to Saudi Arabia, which Egypt’s Supreme Administrative Court recently determined would not be transferred.

Security forces raided the homes of five activists in the Mediterranean governorate of Alexandria in the early hours of Sunday morning, lawyer Mohamed Ramadan tells Mada Masr, arresting one of them. Member of the liberal Dostour Party and former parliamentary candidate, Ahmed Abdel Wahab, was also reportedly arrested in the southern governorate of Aswan on Saturday evening.

Last week, security forces began a series of raids targeting members of political groups and parties, including the Dostour Party and the Bread and Freedom Party, along with members of the Egyptian Social Democratic Party, the Revolutionary Socialists and the April 6 Youth Movement.

In an official statement on Friday, the Interior Ministry claimed its communications unit had apprehended 40 individuals for incitement to violence, or for social media posts critical of the government, insulting the president or disturbing public peace.

Six political parties, seven human rights groups and 155 public figures issued a joint statement on Sunday denouncing what they refer to as a “rabid security campaign,” that “coincides with the preparation of draft laws and their submission to Parliament, to further criminalize so-called insults against the president of the republic, along with institutions and symbols of the state.” The statement claims that the recent campaign against political opposition in Egypt is part of the “ruling authority’s desire to impose its total hegemony over all existing forces in society, and to silence any differing or dissenting voices,” the groups maintain, and has been carried out under the rubric of the war on terrorism.

“The arrests are a preemptive measure against anyone who considers supporting a candidate other than Sisi.”

The suppression of dissenting voices is gaining momentum in the lead up to the presidential elections in 2018, the statement asserts, with six members of the Bread and Freedom Party recently arrested, according to member Elham Aidaros, along with 10 members of the Dostour Party, according to head of the party Khaled Dawoud.

There are also numerous accounts of police intimidation, including threatening phone calls, Aidaros tells Mada Masr. In many cases, the police forces raiding activists’ homes did not carry or show arrest warrants or summons, he adds.

Lawyer Mohamed Hafez, who was present during the interrogation of three individuals arrested separately in Alexandria three weeks ago — Nael Hassan, Islam al-Hadary and Shazly Hussein — questions why they are being accused in the same case, as the charges against them are for individual posts on Facebook. The case is likely based on Egypt’s new counter-terrorism law, he says, with prosecutors asking the defendants about their opinions of the current government.

Aidaros says many of those arrested are working in grassroots labor activism in their respective governorates, or have taken part in conferences and meetings recently to prepare for the upcoming elections. Others have not been politically active for a while, but have been involved in prisoner support campaigns.

The arrests are a preemptive measure against anyone considering supporting a candidate other than President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, Aidaros speculates, or who has announced their intention to run or might be a viable candidate, like founder of the Bread and Freedom Party Khaled Ali.

“We will announce our candidate in a timely manner, after consultation with democratic forces, and this should not be determined by force,” Aidaros stresses.

Dawoud disagrees that the recent arrests are linked to the upcoming election.

“If there is a logical reason, I think this is a prelude to the passing of new laws criminalizing acts deemed insulting of the president and state institutions,” he says, adding that the arrests “aim to spread a sense of complete terror in the hearts of young activists, shutting down the only remaining space for people to express their opinions or criticize the president of the republic and state policies.”

The crackdown follows the “nationalization and confiscation” of media outlets, Dawoud explains, and may lead to enough pressure on the Dostour Party to refrain from participating in the upcoming presidential elections.

Translated by Jano Charbel


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