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Egypt’s Abdel Moneim Aboul-Fotouh faces new charges in ‘recycled’ case

Former Egyptian presidential candidate and opposition party leader was due to be released later this month, his lawyer says
The 69-year-old politician's life could be in danger as his detention is renewed (Twitter)

Egypt’s judiciary has brought new charges against former Egyptian presidential candidate Abdel Moneim Aboul-Fotouh after two years of detention, his lawyer said.

Aboul-Fotouh, 69, has been in pre-trial detention for nearly two years, and was due to be released on 18 February following the expiry of the term he could be held.

However, Aboul-Fotouh was added earlier this week to case number 1781/2019, according to human rights lawyer Khaled Ali. The case has been criticised by human rights groups for relying solely on "national security investigations" rather than evidence, and for being a "recycled" version of an old case.

Recycling cases is a term used by Egyptian rights groups to describe the practice of bringing new charges against someone who has served or is still serving a previous sentence. The new cases are in effect renewed versions of old ones. 

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Mohamed al-Qassas, deputy president of the opposition Strong Egypt party, which Aboul-Fotouh founded in 2011, was rearrested in January in connection with the same case.

Aboul-Fotouh, like Qassas, is facing charges of “leading and financing a terrorist group”.

The new case coincided with a court verdict on the same day removing Aboul-Fotouh and his son from Egypt’s “terrorist list” following an appeal.

According to Ali, Aboul-Fotouh declined to respond to any questions during his interrogation on Saturday. He also refused to sign the prosecutor’s report.

Asked why he refused, Aboul-Fotouh reportedly said: “The reason is injustice and the trumped up charges. I do not want anything, and I am not complaining against anyone. I will only complain to God.”

Aboul-Fotouh has been held in solitary confinement in a tiny cell since his arrest in February 2018. He was arrested that year on charges of spreading false news to harm national interests.

The politician's family has repeatedly accused authorities of subjecting him to a "slow death" due to medical negligence and the tough conditions of his solitary confinement at the notorious Tora prison. 

His son Ahmed, who visited him on Tuesday, told Middle East Eye that he was only allowed to speak to his father behind a glass barrier and by phone. 

Aboul-Fotouh's health has deteriorated because the authorities refuse to allow his transfer to hospital for urgent medical checkups, he added. He also said his father fell three months ago and has requested physiotherapy to heal his pain, but the prison administration refused. 

Similarly, Aboul-Fotouh is apparently still denied a surgery that had been scheduled prior to his arrest, which has hindered his ability to sleep.

'Administrative detention'

Human Rights Watch on Tuesday condemned the continued detention of Aboul-Fotouh as “a farce and a mockery of justice”.

Amr Magdy, HRW’s Egypt researcher, told Middle East Eye that the politician’s continued detention is “very dangerous”, due to his precarious health condition.

“He is an elderly man, with multiple chronic illnesses,” Magdy said. “Political prisoners routinely die in Egyptian prisons because of medical negligence.”

'Political prisoners routinely die in Egyptian prisons because of medical negligence'

- Amr Magdy, HRW

Magdy said Egyptian authorities have been using pre-trial detention as a form of administrative detention to keep political opponents of the Sisi government in jail indefinitely.

“Had there been any real charges against Aboul-Fotouh, he should have stood before a judge in a fair trial, but that is not the case,” Magdy said.  

In 2012, Aboul-Fotouh ran in the presidential election and came fourth, with 17.4 percent of the vote.

He was arrested ahead of the March 2018 presidential election, in which Sisi was endorsed by his only opponent and won an overwhelming majority of the vote.

It is widely believed Aboul-Fotouh was arrested because of media interviews he conducted with journalists from London the month before, in which he indirectly criticised Sisi.