Former Egyptian presidential hopeful Ahmed El Tantawy arrested

Court upholds one-year sentence and five-year election ban amid criticism of government suppression of opposition

Ahmed El Tantawy was sentenced during a trial in February. AFP
Powered by automated translation

Ahmed El Tantawy, a former Egyptian presidential hopeful, was taken into custody on Monday after a Cairo court rejected his appeal and upheld his one-year prison sentence for forging election documents.

Though his earlier sentence had been suspended, the appeals court on Monday ruled that it would be introduced with immediate effect, leading to the arrest of El Tantawy, 48, and several campaign staff at the courthouse, according to a post on X from prominent rights lawyer Khaled Ali.

El Tantawy, who heads the opposition leftist Al Karama party, had been charged in November with illegally circulating election material to his supporters after hundreds of them said they were being prevented from submitting their official endorsements of his candidacy.

He was sentenced during a trial in February alongside 22 members of his campaign staff.

The former politician withdrew from the race in October after failing to gather sufficient support. Under Egyptian law, he was required to secure 25,000 endorsements to appear on the presidential ballot.

During his short-lived campaign, El Tantawy had repeatedly accused the state of obstructing potential challengers to President Abdel Fattah El Sisi, who went on to secure a third term in December.

Egypt's election commission denied any wrongdoing.

In an attempt to circumvent what he called “corrupt practices,” El Tantawy printed and distributed his own endorsement forms to supporters, breaking the country's election laws.

He and his campaign manager Mohamed Aboul Dyar were fined 20,000 Egyptian pounds ($600) each, while the 21 other defendants were sentenced to one year of hard labour.

El Tantawy's conviction and imprisonment deal a blow to an already beleaguered opposition in Egypt. The politician gained prominence as one of the few dissenting voices in a parliament dominated by supporters of Mr El Sisi.

In addition to the one-year jail term, the appeals court also upheld a five-year ban on El Tantawy running in parliamentary elections. The ruling emphasises the narrowing space for political opposition in the Arab world's most populous nation.

The case against El Tantawy and his campaign highlights the strict regulations surrounding Egypt's electoral process and the consequences of breaching these laws. The government has maintained that the arrests and convictions were a result of illegal activities and not politically motivated.

But activists and opposition figures argue that the charges against El Tantawy and his campaign staff are aimed at stifling dissent. They claim that the government has used the legal system to target potential challengers and silence critical voices in the lead-up to the presidential elections.

Updated: May 29, 2024, 5:01 AM