Egypt: Authorities must cease interference in upcoming election and set guarantees for free candidacy

The arrest of presidential candidate and former Armed Forces Chief of Staff, Sami Anan, is an attack on the rights to public participation and freedom of expression by eliminating any serious opposition to President Abdelfattah al-Sisi in the upcoming presidential elections, Amnesty International said today.

“This arbitrary arrest of a potential presidential candidate shows a blatant disregard for the rights to freedom of expression and association and the right to public participation.” said Najia Bounaim, North Africa Campaigns Director at Amnesty International.

Sami Anan had announced his intention to run in the presidential elections on 20 January in a video published on his campaign’s Facebook page. On 23 January, the Armed Forces announced through a statement published on its official Facebook page that Sami Anan must be interrogated and face legal action for announcing his nomination in the presidential elections “without obtaining the permission of the Armed Forces.”

The arrest of Sami Anan is another brazen attack on the rights of the Egyptian people to freedom of expression and political participation.

Najia Bounaim, North Africa Campaigns Director at Amnesty International.

The statement also accused Sami Anan of forging paperwork that showed his military service had ended, which the Armed Forces denies. Serving personnel are not eligible to run in elections according to Egypt`s military regulations

“The arrest of Sami Anan is another brazen attack on the rights of the Egyptian people to freedom of expression and political participation. It appears that Sami Anan has been detained because he was widely considered to be a serious contender against President Abdelfattah al-Sisi. This is not the first time such a contender has been prevented from running against the incumbent.”

Sami Anan is among a growing number of candidates arrested or convicted on trumped up charges by the Egyptian authorities shortly after announcing their candidacy for the March 2018 presidential elections. These include former Armed Forces Colonel Ahmed Konsowa who was detained on charges of “disobeying military orders by expressing his political views” and “committing acts that violate military norms by publishing a video on Facebook announcing his plan to run for the presidency.” On 19 December 2017, a military court sentenced Konsowa to six years in prison on these charges.

Former Prime Minister Ahmed Shafik appeared in a video on 29 November 2017, a few days after announcing his candidacy, declaring that the UAE’s authorities had barred him from travelling to France to meet with Egyptian diaspora to discuss his electoral campaign. His family reported that he had been arrested at his home in the UAE, deported to Egypt and detained for more than 24 hours. His lawyer told Amnesty International that she had not been able to confirm his whereabouts or speak to him since his return. Later that evening Shafik appeared on a political talk show and denied that he had been arrested, deported or detained.

In September 2017 a court in Cairo sentenced presidential candidate and prominent human rights lawyer Khalid Ali to three months in jail on the charge of “violating public decency” for celebrating a recent court ruling reversing a controversial Egyptian government decision to hand over control of two Red Sea islands to Saudi Arabia. Khalid Ali was widely viewed as President Sisi’s top challenger in the polls at the time of his arrest.  

“It is clear that the Egyptian authorities are hell-bent on arresting and harassing anyone who stands against President Sisi. This is consistent with the Egyptian government’s ongoing efforts to crush dissent and consolidate power by attacking civil society, activists and human rights defenders in the country,” Najia Bounaim said. 

Earlier in 2017, Amnesty International warned that the Egyptian authorities had intensified their crackdown on opposition activists ahead of the 2018 presidential election by rounding up activists from opposition parties.