Egyptian colonel jailed after announcing presidential bid


An Egyptian army officer was sentenced to six years in prison on Tuesday after announcing his intention last month to run in the country’s 2018 presidential election, his lawyer and wife said. A military court found Colonel Ahmed Konsowa (left), 42, guilty of expressing political opinions as a serving military officer, his lawyer Asaad Heikal told Reuters:

Konsowa appeared in a video last month announcing that he intended to run against President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi in the vote, which will take place early next year. He said he had submitted his resignation from the army in 2014 but it had not been accepted.

Ahmed Konsowa was given the jail term on Tuesday for “stating political opinions contrary to the requirements of military order”, his lawyer, Asad Haykal, was quoted as saying by AFP news agency:

The colonel was called in for interrogation and handed a 15-day detention order after announcing late last month in a 22-minute video his intention to run against President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi. Following his detention, Haykal told local media that the charges against Konsowa included violating military code and publishing a video in which he espoused political views. 

In last month’s video, Konsowa, who was donning his military attire, said that he was “proudly” declaring his candidacy. “I have decided to unlock the current political deadlock,” he said.

“Konsowa’s legitimacy as a champion for democratic transition stands in sharp contrast to his predecessor,” one observer notes, “whose legitimacy was based on using military power to ‘save the nation’ and then call on people’s participation and on constitutional powers only when needed ‘pour la forme’ to meet the standards of international law for democratic process.”

Twitter has faced criticism after the account of a prominent Egyptian journalist and campaigner was suspended, the Guardian adds:

Wael Abbas wrote on Facebook that Twitter had sent “an email saying my account is suspended for an allotted time, which they did not specify, and for reasons they did not specify too”. At the time of the suspension last week, Abbas had 350,000 followers on Twitter. Notable figures backing the restoration of his account include Garry Kasparov, the former world chess champion and chairman of the Human Rights Foundation.

On the Egyptian blog he co-founded, Misr Digital, Abbas said that“Twitter blocking my account, which documented life in Egypt for 10 years—politics, activism, atrocities, corruption and revolution—is exactly like Hitler burning books. A treasure for researchers has been lost, this is what some of those researchers already told me. Thousands of pictures, videos and live streams from the middle of every crisis in Egypt, with date stamp on them, reporting on people who got tortured, killed or missing,” the Columbia Journalism Review adds.

The incident coincides with an ongoing crackdown against civil society.

Brutal repression and mass human rights abuses are fueling violence and radicalization, undermining Egypt’s important fight against terrorism, notes Amy Hawthorne, Deputy Director for Research at the Project on Middle East Democracy.

The EU and member state ambassadors have laudably criticized human rights abuses in Egypt, but just a few weeks ago they also signed a new development aid package with the el-Sisi government worth up to €924 million, notes Carnegie analyst Richard Youngs. The EU currently has over €1.3 billion of aid projects in Egypt and remains the country’s largest donor. While the union has fought admirably hard to retain some support to civil society, most European aid goes directly to the Egyptian regime, even as it continues its dramatically authoritarian turn, he adds.

Who is the enemy, and who is protecting Egypt’s increasingly worried population? These are the questions being asked in cafes and markets following a series of attacks on security forces and civilians, analysts suggest.

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