Egypt MP eyeing presidency delays return home after arrests

06 May 2023 06:39pm
Image for illustrative purposes only. - FILE PIX
Image for illustrative purposes only. - FILE PIX

CAIRO, Egypt - Former Egyptian MP Ahmed al-Tantawi on Saturday said he was delaying his return home from Lebanon following the arrest of 12 people close to him after he announced a presidential bid.

Tantawi, a vocal critic of Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, had fled Egypt in 2022 amid reports in local media that he faced "security threats".

He was expected to return home from Lebanon on Saturday but announced in a Facebook post that the trip would be "delayed" to another unspecified day within a week.

In March, Tantawi announced he was returning to Egypt and planning to run for the presidency to offer a "democratic alternative" to the current administration.

Human Rights Watch on Friday said "at least 12 family members and perceived supporters" of Tantawi had been arrested since late April.

On Tuesday evening, two of his uncles were arrested in the Nile Delta town of Kafr el-Sheikh, human rights defender Hossam Bahgat told AFP, adding they appeared on Thursday before prosecutors.

Former presidential candidate Khaled Ali said they faced charges including joining or financing a "terrorist group", as well as possession of weapons and "propaganda".

The arrests came as Egypt launched a national dialogue meant to involve the country's opposition that has largely been decimated since Sisi took office in 2014.

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Critics have denounced the national dialogue as an effort to deflect criticism from abroad over Egypt's rights record.

Egypt's last presidential election in 2018 saw Sisi win by a landslide against a sole opponent, Moussa Mostafa Moussa, a relative unknown who was himself a fervent Sisi supporter.

"The arrests of relatives and supporters of Ahmed Tantawy demonstrate that President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi's government is determined to stifle peaceful dissent and label all critics as threats," said Amr Magdi, a senior researcher at HRW.

"Such abuses infringe on the rights of those targeted and severely reduce the country's prospects for democratic and human rights for many years to come," he added.

Though a number of prominent opposition figures have been released from jail over the past year, rights groups estimate that about 60,000 political prisoners remain behind bars. - AFP

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