An Egyptian prosecutor on Wednesday released on bail a human rights lawyer and possible presidential candidate, Khaled Ali, pending his trial later this month on charges of “offending public decency”, his lawyer said.
Ali, 45, was detained on Tuesday amid what some rights lawyers say is a wave of arrests of potential presidential candidates one year before the election.
He is being sued by a private citizen over a photograph in which he appears to make a rude hand gesture on the steps of a Cairo court house, according to his lawyer Malek Adly. Ali denies the authenticity of the photo.
“This is all connected to his human rights and political work,” said Adly, a member of Ali’s Bread and Freedom Party. “We are being punished for practicing clean politics, and yes we intend to run which is why we are facing this campaign.”
Since toppling president Mohamed Mursi of the Muslim Brotherhood in 2013, President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi has presided over a crackdown on Islamists and opponents in which hundreds have been killed and thousands jailed.
Sisi says he is a bulwark of stability in a region that has slipped into chaos since the 2011 Arab Spring revolts, prioritising security over civil rights.
Dozens of lawyers gathered at the courthouse where Ali was being questioned on Wednesday in a show of solidarity.
The Bread and Freedom Party’s legal advisor has said that eight of its members have been detained since April on charges including “misusing social media to incite against the state” and “insulting the president”.
Ali’s defence team paid a bail worth 1,000 Egyptian pounds ($55) after his release was ordered, his lawyer said. His trial was set for May 29.
Separately on Wednesday, a rights activist, Mohamed Zaree, was questioned in relation to a high-profile case in which non-governmental organisations are accused of receiving foreign funding to foment chaos.
Zaree told Reuters he had been charged with “receiving funds from foreign entities to harm national security” before being released on a bail of 30,000 pounds ($1,660).