Egypt detains ex-presidential candidate over leading outlawed group

Egyptian authorities detain former Islamist presidential candidate

The sources, who asked not to be named, confirmed that a number of group members who have been released from prison received financial support and promises to set up a new party for them in the future if they were able to attract others away from the Muslim Brotherhood.

A former member of the Muslim Brotherhood and leader of the centrist Strong Egypt Party, Aboul Fotouh ran as an independent candidate in the 2012 presidential elections, gaining almost a fifth of the vote in the first round.

The Interior Ministry said Abol Fotouh held "secret meetings" with leaders of the worldwide Muslim Brotherhood organisation during a visit to London earlier this month to implement a plot to stir unrest and instability in the country. But he remains in custody and is expected to be questioned by prosecutors on Thursday.

"The arrest is completely warranted given Aboul Fotouh's connection to the Brotherhood, which remained unbroken despite his ostensible resignation from the group so he could run in the 2012 presidential election", said Tharwat El Kharbawy, a Cairo lawyer who was ejected from the Brotherhood for dissent over its tactics and policies.

Egypt designated the Muslim Brotherhood a terrorist organisation shortly after the ouster of Islamist President Morsi in July 2013 over a series of terrorist attacks linked to the group.

The Brotherhood maintains it seeks political change by peaceful means.

The coming election has been criticised by global rights groups already uncomfortable with the government's restrictions on civil society.

Aboul Fotouh was among other political figures who issued a statement condemning the election, saying it had lost its legitimacy following recent repressive practices imposed by the government, including the sidelining and arrest of opponents.

The detention of Mr Aboul Fotouh follows the arrest on February 9 of Strong Egypt's deputy leader, Mohamed Al Qassas.

Egypt's electoral commission has vowed to conduct the vote "according to principles of independence, transparency and objectivity".

The arrests come days after an Egyptian lawyer submitted a complaint to the public prosecutor, calling for the arrest of Aboul Fotouh after the latter appeared on an Al Jazeera television show from London.

He was referring to a stern warning last month from Sisi to anyone looking to challenge his rule.

Meanwhile, according to Human Rights Watch, thirteen local and worldwide rights groups condemned Egypt's presidential election on Tuesday, saying the race would "neither be free nor fair".

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