Human Rights Watch on Monday criticised Egypt’s “arbitrary arrests” of opposition figures ahead of the country’s presidential election in March 26.
In a statement, the group said the “intensifying repression and use of terrorism-related charges against peaceful activists”comes as part of a government strategy to silence critical voices before the two-candidate contest.
Incumbent President, Abdul-Fattah al-Sissi is up against a little-known politician, Moussa Moussa, in the vote set to take place between Mar 26 and March 28.
Al-Sissi is virtually certain to win a second presidential term.
He came to power in 2014, a year after he led the overthrow of the country’s first democratically elected but divisive president, Mohammed Morsi of the Muslim Brotherhood,
The U.S.-based group referred to the recent arrest of AbdulMoneim AbulFotouh, a 2012 presidential candidate, over alleged contacts with the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood.
AbulFotouh was later put on a terrorism list by a court ruling and had his assets frozen by the authorities.
“[AbulFotouh]’s arrest underlines the government message that criticising President [al-Sissi] in the lead-up to the presidential elections is forbidden,” said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East and North Africa Director at Human Rights Watch.
“Elections should stimulate political debate and reflect the popular will, but [al-Sissi]’s government wants to ensure with its heavy-handed repression that this is not the case in Egypt,” she added.
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