The whereabouts of Egyptian ex-prime minister and presidential hopeful Ahmed Shafik remain unclear after his reported arrival in Egypt on Saturday evening.
According to his lawyer, Shafik was arrested in the United Arab Emirates earlier on Saturday and deported to Cairo after he recently announced plans to run for president in the 2018 elections.
Upon landing in the Egyptian capital, Shafik quickly left to an unknown destination, an airport official said.
Witnesses said he left the airport in a Mercedes but it was unclear where he was headed or who was driving the vehicle.
State-run Al-Ahram newspaper cited an unnamed source as saying that Shafik had checked into a hotel.
However, Bloomberg news agency reported that Shafik’s daughters accused Egyptian authorities of “kidnapping” the 76-year-old.
Amira Ahmed Shafik said in a voice recording sent to Bloomberg that her father was denied access to his lawyer and that they planned to sue the Egyptian authorities over his treatment.
Shafik was prime minister for one month in 2011, during that year’s Arab Spring uprising.
After losing the closely contested 2012 election to Mohamed Morsi, Shafik fled to the UAE. He was placed on trial in absentia in Egypt and found guilty of corruption charges.
He was later acquitted, clearing his path for a potential return to Egypt.
The reports about Shafik’s arrival in Cairo came after his lawyer, Dina Adly, said on Facebook that her client had been arrested at his home in the UAE and would be deported to Egypt.
Adly also said in her post that all lines of communication with Shafik had been shut down since Friday.
Also on Saturday, the UAE’s state news agency said that Shafik was heading to Cairo, while his family stayed behind.
On Wednesday, Shafik said in an exclusive video message to Al Jazeera that he had been blocked from leaving the UAE, hours after announcing plans to run in Egypt’s 2018 election against President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi.
“I was surprised to know that I am prevented from leaving the UAE, for reasons that I don’t understand and I am not willing to understand,” he said in his statement.
“I reject any intervention in Egypt’s affairs by preventing me from participating in a constitutional right and a holy mission to serve my country,” added Shafik.
“I call on the UAE leaders to order the lifting of any restrictions on my ability to travel.”
The UAE’s Foreign Minister Anwar Gargash later responded in a series of tweets, saying there was “no obstacle” to Shafik’s departure from the UAE.
“(Shafik) took refuge in the UAE and ran away from Egypt after the results of the 2012 presidential election. We presented him with every facility and generous hospitality despite our severe reservations about some of his positions,” Gargash said.
Sahar Aziz, an associate professor of Law at Texas A&M University, said it was likely that there was some truth to Shafik’s claim that he was barred from leaving the UAE.
“He clearly has been deported. Presumably, the reason why he was deported was in retaliation for his claim that he was barred from departing from the UAE for France – he wanted to go on a European trip where he was going to be campaigning among the Egyptian diaspora, and then presumably head to Egypt,” Aziz told Al Jazeera.
“I don’t think that he would take such a big political risk of insulting his hosts of over five years, who effectively gave him refuge while he was facing criminal charges in Egypt. He wouldn’t do something like that publicly on Al Jazeera if there wasn’t some truth to it. I think he probably was kept, but now he is going to pay a higher price,” she added.
On Friday, Egypt’s Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry said he sees no legal restrictions that could prevent Shafik from running in next year’s elections against Sisi.
“I see no reason why he should not run. I say that as a layman. I know he’s had some issues with the judiciary. I am not sure whether those have been resolved or not,” Shoukry said in a meeting in Italy.
“But in principle, he is free to represent himself to the electorate. As in any society, it’s up to the electorate to decide.”
Shafik is not the only person planning to challenge Sisi in the presidential election. Khaled Ali, a prominent Egyptian rights lawyer, has also voiced his intent to contest the 2018 elections.