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Egypt arrests opposition leader Ahmed Tantawy

Tantawy, widely viewed as the only real challenger to Sisi in the last elections, was detained during a court session appealing a one-year prison sentence
Ahmed al-Tantawi gives an interview at his office in central Cairo on 12 October, 2023 (AFP)
Ahmed al-Tantawi gives an interview at his office in central Cairo on 12 October, 2023 (AFP)

Egyptian opposition politician Ahmed Tantawy was arrested during a court session on Monday, said his lawyer Nabeh El-Ganadi.

He was arrested “from inside the courthouse” at the Matareya Misdemeanour Court in the Fifth settlement in Cairo, according to Genady.

Tantawy, who had been perceived as the only real challenger to Sisi in the December presidential elections, was appealing a court's decision in February to sentence him to one year in prison and bar him from running for national elections for five years over allegations of unauthorised presidential campaign endorsements.

Tantawy and his campaign manager, Mohamed Aboul Diyar were accused of "circulating election-related papers without official authorisation", according to Genady.

The former MP withdrew from the race in October citing intimidation and crackdown on his supporters and relatives.

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He has accused the authorities of blocking his supporters from filing endorsements to support his nomination.

According to Genady, a judge ordered the arrest of Tantawy and Diyar almost immediately after the court ruled to uphold the previous sentence, setting bail at 20,000 Egyptian pounds ($650) for each.

Twenty-one members of Tantawy's campaign have also been handed one-year prison sentences with hard labour.

Human Rights Watch has said the court ruling against Tantawy is based “entirely on Tantawy’s peaceful political activism”.

“Human Rights Watch documented the months-long series of unlawful arrests, intimidation, and prosecutions against potential candidates and their supporters which preceded the election, all of which effectively prevented any meaningful competition,” the New York-based organisation said.

Sisi was elected for a third term on 18 December with 89.6 percent of the vote.

Government mobilisation efforts, largely involving bribes and intimidation, were put into effect in the run-up to the vote to secure widespread support for Sisi, as a high voter turnout became a crucial measure of the incumbent president's popularity in the absence of any significant contenders.

Sisi is set to rule until 2030, amid the backdrop of challenging economic conditions and an ongoing conflict on the country's border with Gaza.

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