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Egypt court sentences former presidential candidate to prison

Human rights lawyer and former presidential candidate Khaled Ali (C) [Mohamed El Raai/Anadolu Agency]

An Egyptian misdemeanours court sentenced prominent human rights lawyer and former presidential candidate Khaled Ali to three months in prison yesterday for “violating public decency,” which could disqualify him from running in the upcoming presidential election.

In a press statement issued yesterday Amnesty International described the court ruling as “politically motivated”.

Ali’s lawyer Nour Fahmy told Reuters that the sentence could prevent Ali from running in the presidential election, expected to be held in 2018, if the ruling is affirmed by a misdemeanour appellate court.

Ali will file an appeal against Monday’s ruling, his lawyer added.

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The court ordered that Ali may pay 1000 Egyptian pounds ($57) in order not to serve the prison term.

Ali’s court case dates back to May 2017 after he was accused of making an indecent hand gesture while he was celebrating another court ruling that annulled a governmental decision to cede two Red Sea islands to Saudi control.

Ali was one of the lawyers who filed a lawsuit to reverse the government’s decision and provided documents to prove that the islands were Egyptian.  The Egyptian government’s maritime border demarcation agreement with Saudi Arabia, which included the islands’ handover, sparked public outrage and rare protests. Ali’s stance against the agreement heightened his popularity.

Ali ran for Egypt’s presidential election in 2012, in the wake of the 2011 uprising. The election was won by Mohammed Morsi, who was ousted by Sisi in a military coup in July 2013.

Observers believe that President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi will run in the 2018 presidential election to rule the country for a second term.

Ali has not directly declared that he intends to run against Al-Sisi but has hinted at this possibility, telling Reuters in June that Egypt’s conditions are so dire under Al-Sisi that any candidate could easily beat him if there was a free and fair election.