Egypt: Arrest of uncles of potential presidential candidate ‘Tantawi’ despite launch of dialogue

One day after launch of the ‘national dialogue’, the Egyptian authorities arrested the uncles of opposition politician Ahmed Tantawi, who intends to run for presidency against Sisi next year.

Egypt on Wednesday launched its so-called ‘national dialogue’ -that was announced by General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi in April 2022- amid ongoing security crackdown, most recently the arrest of two uncles of the potential presidential candidate Ahmed Tantawi.

On 4 May, the Rassd News Network, citing human rights activist Hossam Bahgat, revealed that the security forces arrested the two uncles (father and mother’s two brothers) of former Member of Parliament (MP) Ahmed Al-Tantawi in Kafr El-Sheikh

According to Bahgat, Tantawi’s uncles – Mohamed Naguib Al-Tantawi and Mohamed Sayed Ahmed Attia- have surfaced before the Supreme State Security Prosecution in New Cairo.

However, in another tweet that he posted later, Hossam Bahgat said:

“The arrest campaign also included a number of friends and supporters of former MP Ahmad Tantawi and members of his election constituency, as well as his two uncles.”

“They were all interrogated today by the State Security Prosecution, including: Ahmed Gamil Abdel-Qader, Hamdi Hamdoun, Kamal Saeed Abul-Gadayel, Hani Hussein Abdel Aleem, Tamer Fat’hallah Hassan, Ali Mohamed Haddad, and others.”

In March, the former MP announced his intent to return to Egypt from Lebanon the day after tomorrow, Saturday, May 6, and run for the upcoming presidential elections, next year, 2024.

Tantawi indicated that running for the presidential elections against Sisi depends on not preventing him from competition, either directly or indirectly.

He stressed that his main objective is to win elections as a prelude to achieving a civil, democratic, safe, rational and essential transformation, according to the statement, “to spare our beloved country the dangers of continuing the existing collapse or the risk of an upcoming chaos, God forbid”.

The former MP announced completion of drafting his vision, and that he would announce it step by step at the appropriate time and context.

He added that his vision does not exclude other visions, but rather seeks integration with them.

In August 2022, Middle East Observer reported, citing Mada Masr news website, that former Egyptian Member of Parliament and chairman of the El-Karama (Dignity) Party, Ahmed Tantawi, left Cairo for Beirut “after security directives to keep him away from the political scene and prevent him from writing in the press.

Mada Masr then quoted two leaders of the Supreme Authority of the El-Karama Party, saying that Tantawi was forced to submit his resignation from the party following pressures from the party’s board of trustees.

Citing a third source affiliated with the Civil Democratic Movement, whose name was not identified, the report indicated that Tantawi traveled more than two weeks ago to Beirut to arrange his plans and determine the next step.

The source explained that Tantawi is seeking to obtain a doctorate, but he has not decided whether to study outside Egypt or return home again after several months, stressing that the matter is not forced exile or a threat to imprison Tantawi.

The El-Karama Party first source, who asked not to be identified, told Mada Masr that Former Presidential Candidate Hamdeen Sabbahi had received more than one message from a sovereign official telling him that Tantawi should be removed from the political scene in order not to obstruct the steps of the expected national dialogue.

Meanwhile, the sovereign official pledged to release hundreds of prisoners during the coming period.

The report indicated that such messages became more intense after Tantawi published an article on the El-Manassa website entitled “How can the President of the Republic be impeached and put on trial?” on 14 July, which made the El-Karama Party leadership became angry and resentful of Tantawi.

The El-Karama Party second source, who also asked not to be identified, said that all those close to Tantawi advised him to leave the country for fear of being abused, which prompted him to agree and travel to Beirut.

The El-Manassa website announced on 14 July that it had been blocked by authorities for the thirteenth time since 2017, explaining that the latest blocking also included the server of the hosting company.

Ahmed Tantawi is one of the last major opposition figures in Egypt not to be behind bars. Less than 10 days after losing his place in parliament, he won presidency of the El-Karama Party on 25 December 2020.

In a political environment that continues to silence opposing voices, Tantawi and his party risk the same fate.

In a country that loves its political talk shows, Ahmed Tantawi is known to Egyptians who have regularly seen him on such program to discuss political reforms.

But having become increasingly critical of the regime, he was no longer invited to those shows, but instead was solicited by foreign media, such as the BBC and France 24.