Has al-Sisi launched a programme to assassinate opponents abroad?

Mohamed Ali, an Egyptian businessman living abroad, said the Egyptian embassy in Spain, where he lives, sought to lure him. This came after he broadcast video clips of widespread corruption scandals that seniors within the Egyptian regime of General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, and his wife Intisar, were involved in.

Ali’s statements raise significant concerns that the Egyptian regime may have sought to assassinate him, as was the case with Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul in October 2018.

This is the first interview with Ali since his appearance in videos in which he called for demonstrations on 20 September.

Ali’s call at the time was met by thousands, and the al-Sisi regime was waging a mass arrest of nearly 3,000 people, including torture, enforced disappearance, and arbitrary arrests.

Ali’s interview with Middle East Eye is the first he has conducted with any media, local or foreign, since he became al-Sisi’s most prominent critic. From the moment his first video appeared, the Egyptian government tried to lure him into its embassy in Madrid, Ali said.

This invitation came after he published videos accusing Abdel Fattah al-Sisi of involvement in corruption personally, and building presidential palaces and resorts at the expense of the state treasury.

“They told me: “Officials were upset by what happened to you, and you are a respectable man, and you are our son. You are dear to us and all that, so come to the embassy and let us sit together,” Ali recalled. “I refused.”

Asked if he believed he could have shared the fate of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, who was murdered in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul last year, Ali was reticent.

The contractor has been reluctant to answer questions about whether he could have shared the fate of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, the Saudi journalist who was killed inside his country’s consulate in Istanbul last year.

“I don’t think that would have been done to me,” he said. “God knows, of course, I’m just giving analyses.”

Ali has said he was moved to leave Egypt and assume his whistleblower role after the Egyptian government repeatedly failed to pay his company for work it had completed. That cash was suddenly being used to lure him home.

“They told me they will give me my money and more,” he said. “Calm down, don’t make more videos and don’t speak.”

Attempts to muzzle him were not limited to bribery, Ali said, revealing that he has lived under constant threat of assassination.

“I’ve received an unbelievable amount of threats… They are telling me ‘we know where you are. We will find you one day’,” Ali said.

Egyptian opponents point out that the Egyptian Minister of State for Emigration and Egyptian Expatriates Nabila Makram previously threatened to slaughter opponents of the Egyptian regime abroad, and pointed to her neck with a slaughter mark. This came during a meeting with Egyptians living in Canada, in July 2019.

“Anybody says any words against our country abroad… what will happen to him? He will be chopped,” Makram said, pointing to her neck with the sign of slaughter.

Opponents said the minister’s remarks were a declaration that the regime of General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi planned to launch a programme to assassinate dissidents abroad.

Against the backdrop of the Egyptian minister’s remarks, Egyptians living abroad demanded that the video documenting her remarks be delivered to the Canadian authorities as evidence of the minister’s incitement and terrorism of dissidents abroad.

In contrast, sources at the Egyptian Ministry of Immigration pointed out that the minister’s speech was misinterpreted.

At this time, the former presidential candidate Ayman Nour, who lives in Turkey, said that the Egyptian regime has formed an intelligence and operational group to assassinate a number of its opponents abroad, especially in Turkey.

In a series of tweets published by Nour on Twitter, he said that the Egyptian regime had sent an official to the Egyptian consulate in Istanbul to do what he described as a “specific mission” against Nour and against the dissident media, especially against Mekameleen and Al-Sharq (dissident TV channels), and the two main broadcasters Mohammed Nasser and Moataz Matar. 

The two dissident TV channels Mekameleen and Al-Sharq are broadcast from Turkey, while no dissident TV channel is broadcast from Egypt, the Egyptian regime shut them all.

He explained that the group was formed after the death of former Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi on 17 June, and included journalists, ministers and security officers.

Nour confirmed that the group held a meeting on June 26 under the chairmanship of “Mahmoud al-Sisi,” the son of the Egyptian president and Egyptian intelligence appointees, and a number of members of the National Security Service (an intelligence apparatus), General Intelligence Service, Military Intelligence and media men. That meeting was held in Istanbul. 

Nour explained that the group was assigned to promote daily rumours against the Turkish leadership, and Egyptian opponents there, most notably the famous broadcasters who appear on opposition channels such as Moataz Matar, Mohammed Nasser, and others. 

The former Egyptian presidential candidate said that Makram’s action caught on video was not a spontaneous video or a mistake, it was done on purpose. He said that the Egyptian media loyal to the al-Sisi regime have also demanded the assassination of opposition journalists working in opposition channels broadcast from outside the country, as they are traitors and spies.

Opponents say all these statements are indications that al-Sisi plans to launch a programme to assassinate dissidents abroad, but only to postpone the move, or limit it to fewer targets after the assassination of Khashoggi, who criticised Saudi Arabia.

The global offensive against Saudi Arabia has raised fears among senior al-Sisi administration officials of a similar reaction once the assassination programme begins.

Observers say that the Saudi regime has been shaken and retreated in the face of global criticism, although it is an economically strong system thanks to oil revenues.

The Egyptian regime is not considered to be in its best economic condition. The country suffers from high debts and many problems, which makes it unable to face any possible sanctions.

Despite this, Egyptian dissidents abroad began to change their places of residence, and move to new places unknown to the Egyptian regime. The most famous of them is Mohamed Ali.