Former Egypt presidential candidate arrested

Egyptian moderate Islamist presidential candidate Abdel Moneim Abul Fotouh waves to his supporters as he arrives at a polling station to vote in Cairo on May 23, 2012. AFP PHOTO/KHALED DESOUKI / AFP PHOTO / KHALED DESOUKI

Egypt’s state security prosecutor on Thursday remanded for questioning a former Islamist presidential candidate who was detained over alleged contacts with the banned Muslim Brotherhood, state news agency MENA said.

Abdel Moneim Abol Fotouh and several leaders of his Strong Egypt party were arrested on Wednesday, a day after he returned from London where he had given interviews critical of President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi.

Sisi is almost guaranteed to win a second term in a presidential election slated for March 26-28, but the vote has been panned by rights groups after a number of potential competitors called off their campaigns, citing intimidation, and a top challenger was arrested.

Abol Fotouh was among several high-profile Egyptians to call last month for a boycott of the election.

The state prosecutor ordered him remanded in custody for 15 days and also instructed him to undergo medical checkups at a prison hospital after “he complained of exhaustion and sudden fatigue”.

The other Strong Egypt party leaders were later released, one of them said.

The Interior Ministry said Abol Fotouh held “secret meetings” with leaders of the international Muslim Brotherhood organization during a visit to London earlier this month to implement a plot to stir unrest and instability in the country.

The ministry said in a statement that authorities had confiscated items, some of which contained instructions to him, including on how to gather crowds on the streets and how to create and inflame a crisis to undermine the state.

One of his lawyers said prosecutors had accused him of holding a leadership post in a “terrorist organization” and publishing false news both inside and outside the country that was likely to harm the national interest. He has not yet been charged.

Abol Fotouh denied the accusations. “All charges are false and malicious,” he said, according to defense lawyer Abdelrahman Haridy.

The 67-year-old physician quit the Muslim Brotherhood in 2011 to mount an independent bid for the presidency in 2012, and has distanced himself from the group since then.

Egypt banned the Brotherhood in 2013 after Islamist President Mohamed Mursi was ousted by the military following mass protests against his rule. The group has since been declared a terrorist organization by the government.