Egypt elections: Authorities detain dozens of Sisi rival’s campaign volunteers

Rights group says at least 73 Ahmed Tantawi campaign members, including four lawyers, have been rounded up in recent days. Egyptian security forces have detained at least 73 members of the election campaign of opposition politician and former MP Ahmed Tantawi, a local rights group said on Tuesday.

According to the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR), the volunteers include four lawyers who joined Tantawi’s presidential campaign in three different governorates. The four lawers have been identified as Sayed Mohamed Hussein Khadr, Mohamed Ibrahim Mohamed Sayed, Mohamed Ali Abdel Qader Ebada, and Abdel Galil Mahmoud Sherbini Ibrahim. EIPR pointed out that the detainees are facing charges of “joining a subversive or terrorist group, spreading false news, and misusing social media”.

The organisation added that seven of the detainees were still being held in detention as of yesterday despite the fact that the State Security Prosecution issued a decision on 20 September to release them on bail of five thousand pounds each which their families and lawyers paid last week. EIPR called on the Public Prosecutor to intervene immediately to ensure the implementation of the decisions issued by his office.

“EIPR lawyers who attended the sessions of interrogation and renewal of detention confirmed that most of the detainees were arrested or summoned to National Security offices in their governorates and interrogated simply for filling out volunteer forms in Tantawi’s presidential campaign, while others just liked the campaign’s Facebook page,” the organisation said in a statement. “EIPR once again held the National Election Authority and the Public Prosecutor’s office responsible for this security crackdown that violates the constitution and the law,” it said. Tantawi has previously reported that security forces have arrested some of his associates and relatives and prevented him from holding election-related events. 

Opposition crackdown

Earlier this month, a report by Citizen Lab showed that Tantawi was hacked by European commercial spyware several times after he announced his interest in running for the presidency. A political adviser on Tantawi’s campaign, Ahmed Abdeen, told Middle East Eye that the former lawmaker would push forward with his candidacy despite the hacking. Egypt’s elections authority on Monday announced the timeline for the presidential elections, which will take place on 10 December amid a crackdown on government critics and opposition leaders expected to run against Sisi, including liberal political activist Hisham Kassem.

An estimated 65,000 political prisoners have been languishing in jails since Sisi came to power in 2014, a year after leading a coup that toppled Egypt’s first democratically elected president, Mohamed Morsi. Sisi won a second term in the 2018 election in a landslide victory, with 97 percent of the vote, against one candidate, himself a supporter of Sisi, after all serious opposition hopefuls had either been arrested or pulled out, citing intimidation. Constitutional amendments in 2019 paved the way for the 68-year-old former army general to stand for an additional two terms, as well as extending the duration of presidential terms from four years to six.