Egypt: Tantawi says several of his friends “disappeared” on the way to his office

Ahmed Tantawi has recently declared that several of his friends disappeared on the way to his office, the latest instance of the regime targeting the prospective presidential candidate’s supporters

Former Karama (Dignity) Party head Ahmed Tantawi revealed on May 26 that several of his friends “disappeared” on the way to his office, the latest instance of the regime targeting the prospective presidential candidate’s supporters.

Tantawi, an ex-MP, left Egypt last year after reportedly facing security pressure following his criticism of the national dialogue.

He announced in April that he would soon return to Egypt to run in next year’s presidential elections. Shortly before he was due to return in May, however, authorities arrested more than a dozen of his family members and supporters and detained them on terrorism-related charges.

Several of those arrested were quickly released, but Tantawi said in his May 26 post that 11 out of the 16 or more who were arrested remained behind bars.

In addition, that same day, nine of his friends who were taking a taxi to his office (and future campaign headquarters) “disappeared,” while others were arrested outside of the office.
“Punishing those who adhere to the right to political action and peaceful change will not benefit the authorities,” Tantawi wrote.

He vowed to continue his presidential campaign, saying that “the only way to stop me from performing my duty is to target me personally.”

On May 29, the Supreme State Security Prosecution ordered nine of Tantawi’s supporters who had been arrested in the earlier wave released on bail, but they are still facing charges.

Diaa Rashwan, the coordinator of the ongoing national dialogue, said on May 27 that the constitution does not allow for early presidential elections, adding that candidacy will open in October or November ahead of the vote next March.

In the same context, Poet Galal El Behairy plans to escalate his hunger strike tomorrow to protest his continued unjust imprisonment, he revealed in a leaked message last week.

El Behairy began a hunger strike in March, which marked five years since he was arbitrarily arrested on the basis of his music and poetry. Starting tomorrow, he will forego fluids as well. In his message, he said that his choice to escalate comes from the poor conditions in the prison, as well as a ban on pen and paper in his cell, 24-hour lighting, and his family visits being restricted to 20 minutes per month.

Another week, meanwhile, has passed without any word from student activist and former political prisoner Moaz al-Sharqawy, whom authorities arrested at his home on May 11 and have forcibly disappeared ever since.

Authorities continue to renew the detentions of many others held unjustly. They include four students arrested in July for creating a parody event on Facebook about finding the real Batman and held on terrorism charges, as well as a Stanford academic who was arrested at Cairo’s airport on May 14 for Facebook posts criticizing the regime.

Many have their detention hearings conducted via a video conference system in which they do not even appear in court in person. Human Rights Watch wrote last week that the system “exacerbates longstanding abusive pretrial detention practices and flagrant due process violations, and effectively contributes to covering up abusive detention conditions.”

Some 60,000 real or perceived government critics are arbitrarily detained in Egypt. Lengthy sentences are handed down after trials which lack basic due process and detainees are systematically tortured.

Last week, the Egyptian Front for Human Rights recorded that over a nine-month period Egyptian courts renewed the pretrial detention of over 20,000 people on terror related charges and released only three.

Egypt is one of the top four executioners worldwide, according to a report by Amnesty International.