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Egyptian court upholds sentence against former anti-corruption chief

Hisham Geneina was sentenced to five years in prison in 2018 for 'insulting the military'
Hisham Geneina, former head of Egypt's central auditing authority, in June 2016 (AFP)

An Egyptian court on Sunday upheld a five-year prison sentence for the country's former anti-corruption chief, found guilty of insulting the military, legal sources said.

A military court rejected Hisham Geneina's appeal and confirmed his sentence, a judicial source said, over comments made in an interview with news website HuffPost Arabi.

Geneina was head of Egypt's Central Auditing Organisation until he was sacked by President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi in 2016 for allegedly exaggerating the cost of corruption.

Geneina had told Egyptian media that government corruption had cost the country about $76bn in just four years - roughly about 5 percent of the country’s GDP every year.

He subsequently became a top aide to former military chief of staff Sami Anan, who planned to challenge Sisi in presidential polls but was arrested.

Geneina claimed Anan held documents on "political events and crises that Egyptian society has passed through" since the 2011 uprising.

He said the documents could be released if Anan - who remains in jail - was harmed.

Following the interview, Geneina was detained in February 2018 and sentenced last April to five years in prison for "spreading news that harms the armed forces".

Sunday's ruling "could be challenged before a higher military court," Geneina's lawyer Ali Taha said.

Moataz Wadnan, the journalist who conducted the interview, was also detained but has not yet been put on trial, according to rights lawyer Negad al-Borai.

At the time of Geneina’s sentencing last April, Egyptian journalist Mohannad Sabry had told Middle East Eye that the verdict "fits perfectly within Sisi's policy of crushing anyone who dares oppose him or speak of the amount of failure, corruption, flawed policies and unlawful acts that have become the Egyptian norm under this regime".

Sisi acceded to power after Mohammed Morsi, Egypt’s first democratically elected president, was toppled by a military coup in 2013.

Without any serious challenger at the ballot box, Sisi won a second four-year term last March with 97 percent of the vote.

Egypt's parliament, packed with Sisi supporters, is seeking to institute constitutional amendments that would extend his rule beyond 2022 - a move that has been decried by critics as further cementing the president's grip on power.