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Egypt: Former anti-corruption chief released from prison, then charged again

State security prosecution charges Hisham Geneina, who once oversaw the Central Auditing Organisation, with 'joining a terrorist group and spreading false news'
Hisham Geneina, the former head of Egypt's Central Auditing Authority, in an interview with AFP in Cairo, on 23 June 2016 (AFP)

Egypt’s former anti-corruption chief was released from jail on Tuesday but new charges were brought against him in a new case, a government official and activists have said.

Hisham Geneina, charged in 2018 after exposing government corruption, was released Tuesday after serving his five-year prison sentence.

Tarek al-Awady, a member of the presidential pardon committee, said Monday that Geneina would be released upon completion of his sentence, and his release was confirmed by activists and lawyers on Tuesday.

However, human rights defender Hossam Bahgat said prior to his release Geneina was charged with "joining a terrorist group and spreading false news" by the civilian state prosecution. He was freed without bail but on the guarantee that he remains at his place of residence, Bahgat told AFP. 

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"It is typical of the practice of rotation," Bahgat said, referring to a system where prisoners are detained on new charges instead of being released.

Geneina, who oversaw the Central Auditing Organisation, the country's anti-corruption agency, was found guilty by a military court in 2018 for "spreading information to harm the military" after saying a presidential candidate had secret documents allegedly damaging to the army.

The former judge was a top aide to General Sami Anan, a former armed forces chief of staff who was detained after announcing he would challenge President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi in the 2018 presidential election.

In 2016, Geneina served a one-year jail term after being found guilty of “spreading false news to disturb public order”. He was sacked by Sisi from the Central Auditing Organisation the same year, after he said corruption had cost the country a staggering $76bn over four years.

Authorities ruled that Geneina had allegedly grossly exaggerated the claims by using data from before 2012. But he insisted that his report only focused on the years after. He denied any wrongdoing and insisted his calculations were accurate.

In 2021, Egyptian jails held an estimated 65,000 political prisoners, who were arrested for their opposition to the Sisi government. Sisi denies holding any political prisoners.

Just last month, an Egyptian court sentenced 22 children to lengthy prison sentences ranging between five to 15 years over rare anti-government protests that took place across the country in 2019. 

The verdict also included a life sentence in absentia (25 years) for the exiled businessman and actor Mohamed Ali for leading calls to protest against the government.

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