Egyptian Leftist Leader Accused of Insulting Al-Sisi After Calls for Regime Change

A wave of legal complaints by pro-government lawyers have been filed against Egyptian leftist leader Hamdeen Sabahi after calling for regime change.

During a press conference on Monday, Sabahi condemned last week’s arrest of six opposition figures, including his former campaign spokesperson, ambassador Maassoum Marzouk.

Earlier this month, Marzouk called for a referendum on Abdel Fattah al-Sisi. If the government refused to hold a referendum, Egyptians should begin gathering in Tahrir Square at the end of August, he said.

At the event on Monday, organised by the Civil Democratic Movement, an alliance of secular and leftist movements, Sabahi, 64, urged Egyptians to “stand against the current rule” and to seek to change it.

“Changing this rule is an obligation for every Egyptian,” he said in a rare public challenge of Sisi.

He added that the authorities currently in charge have “impoverished|Egyptians and led to their “subordination”to foreign powers.

In the same context, the Civil Democratic Movement (CDM) said in a statement read out by its spokesman, Yehia Hussain, at a news conference that the group “rejects such police tactics in dealing with political opponents”.

“The recent campaign of arrests … is part of a systematic policy followed by the regime to silence any voice that opposes its oppressive policies that are hostile to freedoms,” the statement said.

The statement said such policies were a “cover-up for its economic and social failures by constantly claiming that there are conspiracies that are being woven in the dark against the country”.

In response to Sabahi’s speech, at least 12 legal complaints were brought against him on Tuesday, accusing him of a range of offences, including insulting the president and incitement to topple the government.

Some complaints accused Sabahi of “trying to please”the Muslim Brotherhood, Egypt’s largest political group, whose leaders have faced the largest crackdown by the Sisi government.

Another lawyer, Mohamed Hamed Salem, called for referring Sabahi to a mental health hospital.

The complaints could lead to the detention of Sabahi, who was jailed 17 times before the 2011 revolution over his opposition to former presidents Hosni Mubarak and Anwar Sadat.

Egyptian authorities have jailed thousands of opponents in recent years, most of them suspected Islamists, but some secular activists and journalists. The government has said its actions are directed at terrorists and saboteurs trying to undermine the state.

Human rights groups have documented the jailing of at least 60,000 political prisoners since Sisi came to power in 2014 after leading a military coup against his predecessor Mohamed Morsi,Egypt’s first democratically elected president.