Egyptian authorities have arrested two male relatives and three friends of former Member of Parliament Ahmed Eltantawy, he said, shortly before his announced return home before an intended presidential election bid.
Eltantawy confirmed to Reuters by phone from Beirut on Thursday that the arrests occurred on Tuesday, but declined to give further details.
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Spokespeople for Egypt’s interior ministry could not immediately be reached for comment.
Nabeh Elganadi, a lawyer for the independent Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR), said at least 10 of Eltantawy’s relatives, friends and supporters – including two uncles – had been arrested. They would be held for 15 days for questioning at the State Security Prosecution on accusations including joining a “terrorist” group, he said.
Eltantawy is the former head of the leftist Karama party, and until 2020 was a prominent and relatively independent member of Egypt’s strongly pro-government parliament.
He spent the past few months in Beirut, where he said he was pursuing academic studies for a doctorate.
In a Facebook post in March, he had announced that he would be running in presidential elections scheduled for 2024 “to offer the civil democratic alternative”.
He also announced his plan to return to Egypt during the first week of May.
Eltantawy said last month that he intended to run in the election, even though he doubted it would be free and fair.
“This is the path to safe change, and whoever closes this door in the faces of citizens pushes them to search for other paths which the country cannot bear,” he said.
Reports of the arrests came as Egypt launched a national political dialogue, which authorities said would encourage the expression of diverse views at a time of acute economic pressure.
The dialogue is also one of several steps that appear aimed at countering criticism of Egypt’s human rights record after a long crackdown on dissent under President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi that rights groups have said has led to tens of thousands of arrests.
El-Sisi led the overthrow of Egypt’s first democratically elected president, Mohamed Morsi of the Muslim Brotherhood, amid protests in 2013.
He was elected with 97 percent of the vote in presidential elections in 2014 and 2018, before his term was extended to six years under constitutional amendments.