Egyptian police have arrested Abdul Moneim Aboul Fotouh, a leading opposition figure and former presidential candidate, over his alleged ties with the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood group.
State Security Prosecution has ordered his detention for 15 days in prison pending investigations on charges related to leading a terrorist organisation and spreading false news inside and outside the country, according to media reports.
The arrests came just days after an Egyptian lawyer submitted a complaint to the public prosecutor, calling for the arrest of Aboul Fotouh after the politician appeared on an Al Jazeera television show from London.
In his complaint, lawyer Samir Sabry accused Aboul Fotouh of “spreading fake news” and demeaning Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi.
Aboul Fotouh was taken away along on Wednesday along with six members of his Strong Egypt Party who were visiting him in Cairo upon his return from London, according to Egyptian news media.
Aboul Fotouh’s son confirmed the report from his home in the Egyptian capital on his Facebook page.
On the orders of the country’s public prosecutor, the senior Strong Egypt Party members who visited him were detained on Wednesday, according to news media reports.
They were Ahmed Abdel Jawad, Ahmed Salem, Mohamed Osman, Abdul Rahman Haridi, Ahmed Imam and Tamer Gilani.
The same night, all of them were released but Aboul Fotouh remained in custody for questioning by prosecutors on Thursday,according to the news reports.
A former member of the Muslim Brotherhood and leader of the Strong Egypt Party, Aboul Fotouh ran as an independent candidate in the 2012 presidential elections, gaining nearly a fifth of the vote in the first round.
The vote six years ago marked Egypt’s first competitive elections following the 2011 revolution, which overthrew long-time leader Hosni Mubarak.
Aboul Fotouh has become the latest detainee in a string of arrests of political figures, government critics and former officials.
Egyptians will go to the polls next month in a presidential election in which incumbent President Sisi looks poised to extend his term in office.
Several potential candidates have either been arrested or faced threats, intimidation and physical violence, forcing them to drop out.
In the interview with Al Jazeera last week, Aboul Fotouh condemned Sisi’s crackdown on opposition and said that the upcoming presidential elections were not fair, transparent, or “democratic”, especially with the absence of real opposition.
“A boycott of this mockery is a duty, in our opinion, because we don’t accept for Egyptians to participate in a farce,” he said of the March vote.
Amid the crackdown on the opposition, the US state department has called for “free and fair elections”.
“We support a transparent and credible process with regard to the electoral process, and that’s one of the reasons why the secretary spoke about the importance of having full, unfettered access to the polls so that people can vote,” Heather Nauert, state department spokesperson, said on Tuesday.
Hisham Genena, a former chief auditor of Egypt, was also detained on Tuesday for 15 days over his claims that the country’s former army chief Sami Anan was in possession of “documents and evidence” that would undermine the country and its leadership.