Egypt court hands jail term to opposition figure

Ahmed al-Tantawi was found guilty of election campaign irregularities though he cited harassment and obstruction in his campaign last year.

An Egyptian court has handed a prison term to opposition politician Ahmed al-Tantawi who had hoped to run against President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi last year, a rights group said Wednesday.

Tantawi — who withdrew his candidacy before the December vote, citing harassment and obstruction — was found guilty of election campaign irregularities.

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He was handed a one-year jail term that could be suspended on bail of 20,000 Egyptian pounds (647 dollars), said the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR) in a statement overnight.

The group said he was also barred from running in parliamentary elections for five years, in the ruling by the Matareya Misdemeanour Court.

Tantawi was convicted of “circulating election-related papers without official authorisation” in the lead-up to the election which Sisi won in a landslide.

The opposition politician had accused authorities of hampering his effort to collect endorsements required to run, under various pretexts including computer malfunctions.

Tantawi instead asked his supporters to fill out unofficial “popular endorsement” forms — a tactic authorities labelled tantamount to election fraud.

The defendants were referred to a court in November.

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EIPR said the court issued the same sentence in absentia to the director of Tantawi’s electoral campaign, Mohamed Aboul Deyar.

It also sentenced 21 others to a year in prison “with hard labour”, said the rights group.

Tantawi was ultimately able to collect only 14,000 endorsements — short of the 25,000 required from at least 15 of Egypt’s 27 governorates to run in the election.

Alternatively, he would have had to garner nominations from at least 20 parliamentary deputies.

The National Election Authority announced Sisi’s victory on December 18 with 89.6 percent of the vote.

He had run against three relatively unknown candidates: Hazem Omar from the Republican People’s Party, Farid Zahran from the Egyptian Social Democratic Party, and Abdel-Sanad Yamama from the Wafd Party.

© Agence France-Presse