Egypt arrests opposition leader for publishing 'false news'

#EgyptTurmoil

The arrest is the latest in what rights groups say is an attempt to silence government critics

Four other prominent opposition figures have been arrested in recent weeks (AFP)
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Monday 28 May 2018 14:36 UTC
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A prominent Egyptian opposition leader has been arrested, three security sources said, the latest development in what rights groups say is a campaign by the Egyptian government to silence critics.

Hazim Abdelazim was arrested at his home in Cairo late on Saturday night on suspicion of publishing false news and inciting against the state, one source said.

Egypt has in recent weeks arrested several prominent activists in a crackdown on critics that followed small protests against increases in metro fares.

Once a deputy telecoms minister under ousted president Hosni Mubarak, Abdelazim was later heavily involved with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi's 2014 election campaign in which he chaired the youth committee.

He later described the experience on his Twitter profile as his "biggest sin” and has criticised Sisi on his Twitter.

The interior ministry could not immediately be reached for comment.

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Last week, Egyptian authorities arrested award-winning blogger and journalist Wael Abbas, accusing him of involvement with an illegal organisation and publishing false news.

Abbas's arrest followed those of at least three other prominent opposition figures.

One of those arrested was Haitham Mohamedeen, a socialist labour rights lawyer, who was accused of "participating in the activities of a banned group" and "using the internet to incite terrorist acts," according to his lawyers. He denies the charges.

Also arrested was Shady Ghazaly Harb, a leading opposition figure during the 2011 uprising that ousted president Hosni Mubarak. Harb handed himself into police on 14 May after being accused of spreading "fake news" on social media.

Sisi, a former army general, seized power in 2014 from Egypt's first democratically elected president Mohammed Morsi.

Rights groups say Egypt's human and civil rights record has deteriorated under Sisi, but his supporters say his tough security policy is needed to ensure stability as Egypt recovers from years of political chaos and tackles economic challenges and an Islamist insurgency.

Sisi won a second term in office in a March election that featured only one other candidate - himself an ardent Sisi supporter - after all serious opposition contenders halted their campaigns citing intimidation and several arrests.