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Egypt leftist leader accused of insulting Sisi after calls for regime change

Legal complaints have been brought against Hamdeen Sabahi prompting speculation he may be detained like his spokesperson Maassoum Marzouk
Former presidential candidate Hamdeen Sabahi in 2014 (Reuters)

Egyptian leftist leader and two-times presidential candidate Hamdeen Sabahi is facing a wave of legal complaints by pro-government lawyers after calling for regime change.

During a press conference on Monday, Sabahi condemned last week's arrest of six opposition figures, including his former campaign spokesperson, ambassador Maassoum Marzouk.

Earlier this month, Marzouk called for a referendum on President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi. If the government refused to hold a referendum, Egyptians should begin gathering in Tahrir Square at the end of August, he said.

At the event on Monday, organised by the Civil Democratic Movement, an alliance of secular and leftist movements, Sabahi, 64, urged Egyptians to “stand against the current rule” and to seek to change it.

“Changing this rule is an obligation for every Egyptian,” he said in a rare public challenge of Sisi.

He added that the authorities currently in charge have “impoverished” Egyptians and led to their “subordination” to foreign powers.

In response to Sabahi’s speech, at least 12 legal complaints were brought against him on Tuesday, accusing him of a range of offences, including insulting the president and incitement to topple the government.

Some complaints accused Sabahi of “trying to please” the Muslim Brotherhood, Egypt’s largest political group, whose leaders have faced the largest crackdown by the Sisi government.

Another lawyer, Mohamed Hamed Salem, called for referring Sabahi to a mental health hospital.  

The complaints could lead to the detention of Sabahi, who was jailed 17 times before the 2011 revolution over his opposition to former presidents Hosni Mubarak and Anwar Sadat.

Human rights groups have documented the jailing of at least 60,000 political prisoners since Sisi came to power in 2014 after leading a military coup against his predecessor Mohamed Morsi of the Muslim Brotherhood. 

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