Khaled Ali's political profile has soared since he won the case nullifying a government transfer of two Red Sea islands to Saudi Arabia
An up-and-coming challenger to Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi may be barred from running against him after receiving a jail sentence on Monday for "public indecency".
A Cairo court sentenced human rights lawyer and former presidential candidate Khaled Ali to three months in prison for making what was deemed an obscene hand gesture on the steps of a courthouse after winning a case against the government.
Ali's political profile has soared since he won the case in January nullifying an unpopular government transfer of two Red Sea islands to Saudi Arabia.
He has not formally announced if he will oppose Sisi in the elections, but has indicated he intends to.
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Ali denies making the gesture and describes the case as punishment for his work trying to nullify the Red Sea islands deal and his intention to challenge Sisi.
Monday's verdict can be appealed without Ali serving jail time during the appeal process. But a final verdict delivered against Ali, which may come immediately if his appeal is rejected, would prevent him from running in elections, his lawyer told Reuters.
Sisi came to power in 2014, a year after he led the military in ousting elected but unpopular Islamist President Mohamed Morsi. He is expected to run again in 2018 and to win in the absence of any major challengers.
Ali, a socialist, ran for president in 2012 and came seventh and now leads the left-wing Bread and Freedom Party, several members of which were arrested earlier this year on charges that include inciting against the state.
Seven arrested for waving LGBT flag
Meanwhile, Egyptian police arrested seven people on Monday after they were seen raising a rainbow flag at a concert, security sources said, in a rare public show of support for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights in the conservative Muslim country.
Security sources said the seven were arrested for "promoting sexual deviancy," a euphemism in Egypt for homosexuality, after they were seen on camera raising the rainbow flag at a Mashrou' Leila concert, a popular Lebanese alternative rock band whose lead singer is openly gay.
The public prosecutor has not yet announced a decision on whether formal charges will be filed and a case brought to court.
Although homosexuality is not specifically outlawed in Egypt, it is a conservative society and discrimination is rife. Gay men are frequently arrested and typically charged with debauchery, immorality or blasphemy.
The largest crackdown on homosexuals in Egypt took place in 2001, when police raided a floating disco called the Queen Boat. Fifty-two men were tried in the case, which drew widespread criticism from human rights groups and Western governments.