Egyptian police have arrested Abdul Moneim Aboul Fotouh, a leading opposition figure and former presidential candidate, over his alleged ties with the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood group.
On the orders of the country’s public prosecutor, six other senior members of Fotouh’s Strong Egypt Party were also detained on Wednesday, local media reported.
Fotouh’s son confirmed his father’s arrest from his home in Cairo on his Facebook page.
Other party members detained were Ahmed Abdel Jawad, Ahmed Salem, Mohamed Osman, Abdul Rahman Haridi, Ahmed Imam, and Tamer Gilani.
The arrests come days after an Egyptian lawyer submitted a complaint to the public prosecutor, calling for the arrest of Aboul Fotouh after the latter appeared on an Al Jazeera television show from London.
In his complaint, lawyer Samir Sabry accused Aboul Fotouh of “spreading fake news” and demeaning Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi.
A former member of the Muslim Brotherhood and leader of the centrist Strong Egypt Party, Aboul Fotouh ran as an independent candidate in the 2012 presidential elections, gaining nearly a fifth of the vote in the first round.
The vote six years ago marked Egypt’s first competitive elections following the 2011 revolution, which overthrew former leader Hosni Mubarak.
Aboul Fotouh becomes the latest detainee in a string of arrests of political figures, government critics and former officials.
Egyptians will go to the polls next month in a presidential election in which incumbent Sisi looks poised to extend his term in office.
Several potential candidates have either been arrested or faced threats, intimidation and physical violence, forcing them to drop out.
In an interview with Al Jazeera last week, Aboul Fotouh condemned Sisi’s crackdown on opposition and said that the upcoming presidential elections were not fair, transparent, or “democratic”, especially with the absence of real opposition.
“A boycott of this mockery is a duty, in our opinion, because we don’t accept for Egyptians to participate in a farce,” he said of the March vote.
Amid the opposition crackdown, the US Department of State has called for “free and fair elections”.
“We support a transparent and credible process with regard to the electoral process, and that’s one of the reasons why the secretary spoke about the importance of having full, unfettered access to the polls, so that people can vote,” spokeswoman Heather Nauert told reporters on Tuesday.
Egypt’s former chief auditor Hisham Genena was also detained on Tuesday for 15 days over his claims that the country’s former army chief Sami Anan was in possession of “documents and evidence” that would undermine the country and its leadership.