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Egypt's former justice minister Ahmed Sulaiman arrested

Sulaiman, 68, is a leading figure in a judicial movement empowered under Morsi and has been a vocal critic of President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi
Judge Ahmed Sulaiman was Egypt's last justice minister before the 2013 coup (Twitter)

Egyptian security forces have reportedly arrested a former justice minister who served in the government of Mohamed Morsi that was toppled in a military coup in July 2013.

Ahmed Sulaiman, 68, was arrested without charge after midnight on Wednesday when security forces broke into his home in the southern city of Minya, his son, Mohamed Sulaiman, told Arabi21 news website

He was then transferred to Cairo state security prosecution for investigation, said his son, who is also a judge. Egyptian human rights advocates also reported the arrest.

Mohamed Sulaiman told Arabi21 that he believes his father was arrested as a result of complaints brought against him by the pro-government lawyer Samir Sabry three months ago.

His father decided to stay in Egypt despite advice from friends to leave the country, he added. 

Ahmed Sulaiman is a leading figure in the Judicial Independence Current, a movement launched after the 2005 parliamentary elections in protest against widespread vote rigging under the auspices of the executive authority.  

Judges affiliated with the movement were empowered under Morsi, but then bore the brunt of current president Abdel Fattah el-Sisi’s crackdown against critics and were accused of being affiliated with the now-banned Muslim Brotherhood. Sulaiman has denied the claims.

London-based human rights activist Ahmed Attar told Middle East Eye on Wednesday that Sulaiman's status as a judge has previously given him immunity from arrest. 

Sulaiman resigned from his post as justice minister days after the 3 July coup in 2013, and has since been a critic of Sisi's government.

In 2016, he accused the Supreme Judicial Disciplinary Council of engaging in "a massacre against judges" after 31 judges, including himself, were forced to retire after the council found them guilty of political activism for participating in anti-coup protests in 2013.

In recent years, he has attempted to return to his judicial career, but last year, the Court of Cassation rejected his request to return to the bench. 

In a statement released on Wednesday, the Network of Human Rights Defenders, an online network of Egyptian rights lawyers and activists, said: “The arrest of Judge Sulaiman is a serious development and a continuation of the policy of silencing critics and human rights defenders."

Rights groups have documented the detention of at least 60,000 political prisoners since Sisi assumed office, in a crackdown that Human Rights Watch has described as "the worst human rights crisis in the country in decades".

The crackdown intially targeted members and supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood, from which Morsi hails, but then extended to liberal and independent government critics.