Egypt | Human rights organizations condemn detention of Abdel-Moneim Aboul-Fotouh: Opposition candidates and critics of presidential elections continue to face imprisonment and reprisals

In Egypt /Road Map Program, Statements and Position Papers by CIHRS

The undersigned organizations denounce the detention of Dr. Abdel-Moneim Aboul-Fotouh, the head of the opposition party Strong Egypt (a registered political party) on Wednesday February 14th, for 15 days pending investigations run by the state-security prosecutor, on severe charges including leading a terrorist group, and spreading false news and information that may lead to destabilizing the state. Aboul-Fotouh’s detention is a clear indication that Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al –Sisi, after suppressing all potential presidential contenders through imprisonment, intimidation, and violence, has now begun to silence those critical of the farcical election: a process so utterly rigged by the president and his security apparatus that it has lost any genuine meaning.

This flagrant subversion of a democratic process has prompted many political figures –including Abdel-Moneim Aboul-Fotouh – to call for a boycott of the elections, a call that was joined by thousands within days.  Facing a growing call for boycott, President al-Sisi threatened his political opponents during a January 31st speech in Port Said, warning that he will take further action against those who “tamper with the security” of Egypt.  Immediately afterwards, complaints were filed against Aboul – Fotouh and leaders of the National Democratic Movement, another group calling for a boycott of the elections. Egypt’s National Security Agency (NSA) swiftly retaliated by arresting Aboul-Fotouh from his home in the Cairo suburbs during a party meeting. Other party members were also arrested, and later released.

Aboul-Fotouh’s arrest comes a week after Strong Egypt’s deputy Mohamed al-Qassas was arrested and held in an undisclosed location for 48 hours while being interrogated without his lawyer present. During this time, the NSA raided and besieged his home, preventing his wife from returning for five days.  The state-security prosecution charged al-Qassas with financing terrorism and communicating with a banned organization (The Muslim Brotherhood) and ordered him to be held 15 days pending investigation in the infamous Aqrab 2 prison.

Aboul-Fotouh joins a long list of politicians and candidates who have faced retaliation, violence, and imprisonment after announcing their intention to run for the presidency.  Khalid Ali was falsely accused of public indecency and sentenced to one-month in prison, with the aim of rendering him ineligible to run for office; he announced his withdrawal from the elections on January 24th   as his campaign faced escalating harassment. Lt. General Ahmed Shafiq announced his withdrawal from the election on January 7th  after his deportation from the United Arab Emirates, where he was held in an unknown location for 48 hours. When former Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces, Lt. General Sami Anan, declared his intention to run in the presidential elections, the General Command of the Armed Forces responded with an official statement condemning his candidacy. He was arrested by security forces and is still held in military prison.

Similarly, the military police arrested Colonel Ahmad Qunsuwa immediately after he announced his intention to run in the presidential elections. He was sentenced by a military court to six years imprisonment.  Former Member of Parliament Mohammed Anwar Sadat declined to run due to threats faced by his campaign. The severity of security constraints and interference prevented him from simply holding an election conference at a hotel in Cairo. Hisham Genena, one of Sami Anan’s campaign aides, was brutally assaulted by unknown assailants in what is likely either an assassination or kidnapping attempt.  He was arrested three days ago, on Tuesday, February 13th, by the military police yesterday for giving press statements deemed offensive to the military establishment, and is still in custody and under investigation. The only purported contender in the election is Mousa Mostafa Mousa one of the founders of a campaign to support Sisi for a second presidential term, who only registered for the election at the urging for pro-regime Parliament members. A staunch Sisi supporter’s presence in the election as a ‘contender’ is an absurd ruse intended to give a veneer of competitiveness to a process where the winner has already been clearly predetermined.

The process Egypt will witness next month is not an election and not even a referendum, both of which require minimal adherence to democratic standards; it is merely a staged reaffirmation of loyalty to the current president. This illegitimate process will likely have devastating implications extending beyond the realm of presidential politics, as rights groups warned in an earlier statement: it would diminish “the potential for a peaceful transfer of power while exacerbating political violence, terrorism, and political instability.”

In the interests Egypt’s stability and the safety of all its citizens, the signatories demand the immediate release of Abdel-Moneim Aboul-Fotouh, Mohamed al-Qassas, Sami Anan, Hisham Genena, and Ahmed Qunsuwa.  The detention of Aboul-Fotouh for his political activities and opinions is yet another repressive measure that not only targets potential candidates in the upcoming election but also tightens the stranglehold on Egypt’s public sphere, stifling political activity and purging any opposition critical of the current president. The signatories would like to remind the Egyptian government that closure of the public sphere and subversion of the political process were the last nails in the coffin of Mubarak’s rule.

Signatory Organizations:

  1. Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies (CIHRS)
  2. Egyptian Front for Human Rights
  3. The Arabic Network for Human Rights Information (ANHRI)
  4. Egyptian Center for Economic and Social Rights (ECESR)
  5. Nadeem Center against Violence and Torture
  6. Andalus Institute for Tolerance and Anti-Violence Studies (AITAS)
  7. Adalah Center for Rights and Liberties (ACRF)
  8. Egyptian Center for Rights and Freedoms (ECRF)
  9. Arab Organization for Penal Reform (APRO)
  10. Arab Foundation for Civil and Political Rights – Nidal

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