Egypt rights lawyer latest presidential hopeful to quit race

Muriel Hammond
January 25, 2018

Egypt's military Tuesday arrested its former chief of staff, who was planning to run in upcoming elections against President Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi, accusing him of inciting against the armed forces and forgery, in what appeared to be a calculated move to push him out of the race.

Ali's announcement came a day after Egyptian authorities detained the last challenger seen as a real threat to Sisi's re-election, ex-military chief of staff Lieutenant General Anan.

Egypt's Supreme Council of Armed Forces accused Anan of falsifying documents stating that his military service had terminated and therefore violating the country's military law by running for election without the army's approval.

If only el-Sissi runs in the March 26-28 election, it would resemble the one-candidate referendums that confirmed presidents with "yes" votes routinely over 95 percent during decades of authoritarian rule in Egypt, starting with the establishment of the republic almost 70 years go.

Mr Anan is the third military man to face punitive measures after declaring that they would challenge Mr Sisi, a former defence minister who is backed by the army, security agencies and a tightly controlled media.

Would-be candidates for the presidency must register with the National Elections Authority by January 29, but some have already stepped aside. Egypt's president's office and government press centre have not commented on the election race.

El-Sissi led the military's 2013 ouster of former president Mohammed Morsi, an Islamist and Brotherhood stalwart.

The armed forces said that Anan's statement regarding running for president contained clear incitement against the armed forces for the goal of driving a wedge between the armed forces and the great Egyptian people. His campaign was halted in its tracks.

It said the declaration of his candidacy contained "open incitement against the armed forces with the aim of causing a rift between it and the great Egyptian people".

A statement by the campaign of former military chief of staff and presidential hopeful Sami Annan says it is suspending its activity indefinitely following a statement by the armed forces listing an array of serious allegations against him.

Earlier, Egyptian authorities stormed the homes of Anan's presidential campaigners and arrested a number of them.

The case was pursued "for nothing except to provide a legal excuse that would prevent us from running", he said. In announcing his candidacy on Saturday, he lashed out at el-Sissi's record and pledged to appoint Hisham Geneina, a onetime anti-corruption czar fired by el-Sissi, as vice president for human rights.

On Tuesday, top army officials said Annan had failed to follow regulations before announcing his candidacy, which require officers to formally end their service and ask for permission from the central command.

Soon after he announced his plans to run previous year, he was tried and convicted in September on public obscenity charges - for giving a middle finger during celebrations outside a Cairo courthouse months earlier following a ruling against the government's agreement to cede control of two strategic Red Sea islands to Saudi Arabia.

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