Egyptian police arrested on Wednesday a leading government critic and party leader Abdel Moneim Abul Fotouh, security officials said, while prosecutors remanded into custody another leading dissident.
Security officials suggested Mr. Abul Fotouh, a candidate in the 2012 presidential election, had ties with the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood. He was arrested shortly after arriving from London where he gave interviews in which he was critical of the government. Five aides were also arrested, the officials said.
The arrests also come after a statement by Mr. Abul Fotouh and several other politicians calling for a boycott of next month’s election. President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi is expected to easily win the election after most rivals were sidelined or withdrew.
With no real opposition candidate, no more independent media, and no more civil society critics, let's not pretend that Egypt Pres Sisi's coming (s)election is even remotely free and fair. https://t.co/rPs1AVqIse pic.twitter.com/IQO71VxjIx
— Kenneth Roth (@KenRoth) February 13, 2018
His most credible rival, former military chief of staff Sami Anan, was detained last month shortly after announcing his candidacy.The military said he was still enlisted and had no right to run in the election.
Mr. Anan’s top campaign aide Hisham Geneina, a former anti-corruption chief sacked by the current president, was remanded into custody on Wednesday, a day after his arrest, for suggesting his boss possessed and could release documents damning to top state officials.
Mr. Sisi was elected in 2014, a year after the former army chief ousted his unpopular Islamist predecessor Mohamed Morsi.
Mr. Abul Fotouh, once a leading member of Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood, had supported the mass protests against the Islamist that prompted the military to topple him. He has since been critical of the president who has been accused of clamping down on dissent.
Former army general and prime minister Ahmed Shafiq had also announced he would stand in the election. Mr. Shafiq made his announcement from exile in the United Arab Emirates, which promptly sent him back to Egypt where he was received by state officials who took him to a hotel. Shafiq later withdrew his candidacy.
Mr. Sisi’s only remaining rival is a leader of a small party who had been a leading campaigner for the president until he abruptly announced his own candidacy. Critics said he did so to save Mr. Sisi the embarrassment of being the only candidate, in a throwback to referendums held by Egyptian autocrats instead of elections.
The government has rejected such criticism and the candidate, Moussa Mostafa Moussa, insists he is a serious contender.