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Jailed Egyptian ex-army chief who tried to run against Sisi is freed

Sami Anan was arrested in early 2018 after announcing he would run against Sisi, who then swept to victory for second term
Former Egyptian army chief of staff Sami Anan, right, with then US Commander of the Central Command James Mattis in Cairo in 2011 (AFP)

Egypt on Sunday released from jail a former military chief of staff arrested in 2018 after he tried to challenge President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi in a presidential election, a senior official said.

Anan was arrested in early 2018 after he announced he would run against Sisi, who swept to victory in a March 2018 poll for a second term.

At the time, the army accused Anan of announcing his intention to run in the election "without getting the approval of the armed forces or following the required procedures to end his service in the military".

It also said Anan's announcement constituted "direct incitement against the armed forces with the intent of causing a rift between it and the great Egyptian people".

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After his arrest, a military court imposed a media blackout concerning Anan and the proceedings against him.

Anan's spokesman, Mahmoud Refaat, told Middle East Eye at the time that Anan was a victim of "lies" and his genuine attempt to "save a sinking ship" had left him under arrest and fearing for his life.

Observers had initially seen Anan’s candidacy as a ploy to give legitimacy to the election, until Anan announced his appointment of former top auditor Hisham Geneina as an adviser. Geneina was investigated under Sisi for claiming in 2016 that state corruption had cost the country a staggering $76bn.

According to Refaat, Anan’s appointment of Geneina was meant to send a message that Anan was looking to establish a law-abiding state.

Sisi, himself an ex-army chief, won an overwhelming 97 percent of votes in a May 2014 poll and was re-elected president for another five-year term in March 2018, again with more than 97 percent of the vote.

Since Sisi took power, rights campaigners have regularly accused his government of abuses, including mass trials and torture as well as a clampdown on opposition and the media.

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