Middle East

Former Egyptian presidential candidate has detention extended

Egyptian presidential candidate Abdel Moneim Abul Fotouh arrives at a polling station to vote in Cairo (AFP)

An Egyptian court has renewed the provisional detention of Former Egyptian presidential candidate Abdelmonem Aboul Fotouh on charges of "leading a terrorist group" and "spreading false news".

The Cairo Criminal Court on Tuesday decided to renew Aboul Fotouhs detention for 45 days pending further investigations. According to the Egyptian daily Al-Shorouk, Aboul Fotouh appeared in "a deteriorated health condition".

His lawyer Mohamed al-Baqer requested his immediate release on medical grounds.

Aboul Fotouh is the head of the Strong Egypt Party, which he established in 2012 after quitting the Muslim Brotherhood.

He ran in the 2012 presidential elections and came fourth with 17.4 percent of the vote.

Aboul Fotouh was arrested on 14 February 2018 ahead of the March presidential elections, in which current President Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi ran virtually uncontested and won a majority of the votes.

It is believed he was arrested because of media interviews he conducted in February from London with the BBC and a number of other media outlets in which he indirectly criticised Sisi and the pre-election exclusion of all his potential rivals.

'The prison doctors told him in person that he urgently needs to be transferred to hospital, but they did not write that in an official report for fear of disciplinary action against them'

Abdelmonem Aboul Fotouh's family

Human Rights Watch condemned his arrest, saying it "underlines the government message that criticizing President al-Sisi in the lead-up to the presidential elections is forbidden.”

“Elections should stimulate political debate and reflect the popular will, but al-Sisis government wants to ensure with its heavy-handed repression that this is not the case in Egypt,” said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East and North Africa director at Human Rights Watch.

The 66-year-old has since been held in solitary confinement at Tora prison. His cell is 2×3 metres in size. He is allowed to leave his cell only two hours a day to walk in the corridor of his prison ward.

Unlike other prisoners, he has been banned from using the gym, library, and the outdoor facilities during his break, a family member who asked not to be named for security reasons told Middle East Eye.

Numerous requests to refer him to hospital have been rejected, they said.

"The prison doctors told him in person that he urgently needs to be transferred to hospital, but they did not write that in an official report for fear of disciplinary action against them," the family said.

According to Aboul Fotouhs family, they are allowed to visit him once a week for 30 minutes. However, a National Security Officer attends those visits and controls the amount and type of food his family sends him, in violation of prison bylaws, they added.

Egyptian human rights groups claim that over 60,000 political prisoners languish in Egyptian jails.

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