The undersigned organizations condemn the arrest of at least eight family members and supporters of prospective presidential candidate Ahmed Tantawy, and the state prosecution’s decision to place them in pretrial detention for fifteen days on various charges, including “joining a terrorist organization” in Supreme State Security Case 2397 of 2021. Tantawy, former head of the Karama party, announced in April his intent to run in the presidential elections in 2024.
The undersigned organizations consider the targeting of family and supporters of a presidential candidate, which coincided with the launch of the National Dialogue, as yet another indicator that the Egyptian government clearly lacks the will to initiate political opening, in contradiction with the image it promotes nationally and internationally. While close to 1,000 prisoners were released and pardoned, almost triple that amount have been newly arrested. Leading figures in the Civil Democratic Movement have also stated that most of the demands they had made before start of the National Dialogue were disregarded by the Egyptian authorities.
Former parliamentarian Ahmed Tantawy was critical of the punitive measures taken against those who challenged president Abdel Fattah al-Sisi during the 2018 presidential elections, resulting in his reelection without serious opposition. Tantawy also opposed the 2019 constitutional amendments, which amongst other things, extended presidential term limits by two years and allowed Sisi to run for a third term in 2024.
In July 2022, Tantawy left Egypt due to pressure from security agencies, including for publicly demanding guarantees for a fair National Dialogue that would put the authorities and the opposition on equal footing. In March 2023, Tantawy announced that he will return to Egypt on 6 May, and on 21 April he confirmed that he will be running for presidential elections in 2024.
The arrest of Tantawy’s family members and supporters signals that the Egyptian government remains unwilling to address the human rights crisis in Egypt, and has neither the intent of agreeing to meaningful reform throughout the National Dialogue process, nor the willingness to allow free and fair presidential elections in 2024. The ceaselessness of these punitive measures also demonstrates that there is no change in security agencies’ policies towards political opposition. The targeting of the first person to announce their intent to run against the president in the upcoming elections is reminiscent of the repressive policies directed against those who ran against the president in 2018, where some were arrested and others were coerced into withdrawing. The undersigned organizations reiterate their demands that the authorities stop targeting peaceful members of the opposition and their families, and release those arrested. The undersigned organizations also reiterate that resolving the multitude of crises Egypt faces today requires a free and open political life.
Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies
Association for Freedom of Thought and Expression
Committee for Justice
Egyptian Commission for Rights and Freedoms
Egyptian Front for Human Rights
Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights
El Nadeem Center
Sinai for Human Rights
The Freedom Initiative