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Egypt arrests prominent critics of Sisi with 1,400 detained since Friday protests

Hazem Hosny, a spokesperson for ex-army chief Sami Anan, and political scientist Hassan Nafaa among latest to be detained in crackdown
Political scientists Hazem Hosny (L), Hassan Nafaa (C), and politician Khaled Dawoud (R) are the latest targets of crackdown against Sisi critics (Facebook)

Egyptian security forces have arrested the spokesperson of former army chief of staff Sami Anan after he posted comments on Facebook critical of President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi.

Hazem Hosny, who is also a prominent political scientist, was arrested on Tuesday evening, his lawyer, Nour Farahat, said on Wednesday. 

Anan was arrested in January last year after announcing he planned to stand against Sisi in presidential elections. He remains in detention in a military hospital.

Farahat said his client is currently being held incommunicado and that he was arrested without a warrant.

“The defence panel calls for Hosny’s immediate release, and for him to face proper due process and to allow his lawyers to contact him,” Farahat said in a Facebook post.

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Hosny, a professor emeritus at the Faculty of Economics and Political Science at Cairo University, has written Facebook posts critical of Sisi and hailed the “positive role” played by exiled whistleblower Mohamed Ali, whose video messages urging Egyptians to protest against the government brought crowds onto the streets of major cities last Friday, prompting a wave of arrests.

In a recent analysis of the protests, Hosny argued that while Sisi’s international backing was sufficient to keep him in power, the protests could change that factor.

“The popular movement has the ability to change the international formula that largely determines Sisi’s continued rule,” he said.

“International equations will not serve Egyptians unless they, and their armed forces, work to strip Sisi of his dictatorial control of the Egyptian state. This is essential and possible, if armed forces want to save the minimum that could be saved from the reputation of the army.”

Observers have raised questions over whether Mohamed Ali has supporters within Sisi's government who are standing behind his calls for protests or even plotting a coup. 

With officers who ran for president against Sisi detained, Hosny's arrest may signal that the Sisi government remains concerned with dissent in the army, says Dalia Fahmy, associate professor of political science at Long Island University in New York.

"Sisi has led a campaign of forced retirement and a purging of many officers to prevent a fissure from occuring in the army, especially after the emergence of former army officers as candidates for president to contest him in the last presidential elections," she told Middle East Eye.

"The arrest signals Sisi's growing paranoia over internal dissent in the army."

Arrest of Hassan Nafaa

Security forces also reportedly arrested Hassan Nafaa, another political scientist and former Sisi supporter who recently backed the popular protests against his rule.

“I have no doubt that the continuation of Sisi's absolute rule will lead to disaster, and that Egypt's interest requires his departure today before tomorrow,” Nafaa said in his latest Twitter post.

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“But he will only leave with public pressure from the street. At the same time, we should choose the least expensive ways to guarantee the transfer of power to honest hands, and to avoid a scenario of chaos,” he added.

In another post, Nafaa urged Egyptian political forces to prepare for a “post-Sisi era".

“Regardless if Mohamed Ali is totally or partially telling the truth or even if he is a liar, the image Sisi has created for himself has been totally shaken and it has been replaced by the opposite image.

"And because he has sworn that he will not stay [as president] for a second term if he felt the people do not want him, then it is the time to remind him and all forces loving the homeland to prepare for the post-Sisi era in an organised way.”

Khaled Dawoud

Another high-profile Sisi critic, Khaled Dawoud, was arrested on Wednesday, according to lawyer Tarek Hussein

Dawoud is the media spokesperson for the opposition al-Dostour Party and a former Al Jazeera correspondent.

He was a media spokesperson of the National Salvation Front, a coalition of civilians who backed Sisi's coup against his predecessor Mohamed Morsi. But he later became critical of Sisi.

Most recently, Dawoud called for a probe into corruption allegations mentioned in Mohamed Ali's videos.

According to their lawyer Khaled Ali, a Cairo prosecutor on Wednesday ordered the pre-trial detention of Hosny, Nafaa and Dawoud for 15 days on charges of "collaborating with a terrorist organisation to achieve its goals", "disseminating rumours with the purpose of spreading disorder", and "using social media to publish false rumours."  

The three were added to case no. 488/2019, where the detained lawyer Mahinour el-Masry and left-wing leader Kamal Khalil are among the defendants. 

The arrest of Hosny, Nafaa and Dawoud comes amidst a large scale crackdown against anti-Sisi protesters who have taken to the streets since Friday, with nearly 1,400 protesters rounded up according to the latest tally by local rights groups.

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