Egypt arrests former chief of staff for planning to challenge Sisi

Updated January 24, 2018

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In this  Sept 16, 2011 file photo then military ruler field marshal Mohammed Hussein Tantawi (left) and Sami Annan, then Egyptian chief of staff of the armed forces, are surrounded by military policemen as they attend the funeral of Khaled Abdel Nasser, the son of Egypt’s late president Gamal Abdel Nasser in Cairo.—AP
In this Sept 16, 2011 file photo then military ruler field marshal Mohammed Hussein Tantawi (left) and Sami Annan, then Egyptian chief of staff of the armed forces, are surrounded by military policemen as they attend the funeral of Khaled Abdel Nasser, the son of Egypt’s late president Gamal Abdel Nasser in Cairo.—AP

CAIRO: Egypt’s military on Tuesday arrested its former chief of staff, who was planning to run in upcoming elections against President Abdel-Fattah el-Sisi, accusing him of inciting against the armed forces and forgery, in what appeared to be a calculated move to push him out of the race.

With his bid to run now all but dead, Sami Annan becomes the latest in a string of potential competitors to el-Sisi who have dropped out or have been driven out. El-Sisi, a former head of the military, is considered virtually certain to win re-election in the March 26-28 vote.

A security official with first-hand knowledge of the Annan affair said the ex-general was arrested by the military simultaneously with the release to the official media of an armed forces’ statement listing the allegations facing him.

The statement said Annan would be questioned on charges of forging documents relevant to the formal end of his active service, breaching army regulations by declaring his intention to run without first clearing it with the military and inciting against the armed forces in his comments to the nation when he declared his intention to run for president earlier this month.

“The Armed Forces could not allow itself to ignore the blatant legal violations committed by the aforementioned which constituted a gross breach of the rules and regulations governing the service of armed forces officers,” said the statement, using uncompromising legal lingo.

“In upholding the principle of the law’s sovereignty as the basic rule of the state, it is imperative that legal measures pertaining to these violations and crimes be taken and he (Annan) is summoned for questioning by the relevant authorities,” it said.

His arrest was reported by two top aides. One, Mustapha al-Shall, who broke the news but had no details. Another one, Mahmoud Refaat, reported the arrest on his Twitter account, but again gave no details.

A brief statement by Annan’s campaign said it was suspending its activity indefinitely.

“The campaign for the nomination of Sami Annan as president of Egypt regrettably announces the indefinite suspension of the campaign out of fear for the safety and security of all citizens who dream of change,” it said on the campaign’s official Facebook page.

With Annan out of the race and possibly facing a court martial, only one serious presidential hopeful is left in the field: Prominent rights lawyer Khaled Ali. But his candidacy is also at risk. In September, he was convicted of making an obscene hand gesture in public, and if that ruling is upheld on appeal, he will be ineligible to run. The next hearing is scheduled for March 7.

Published in Dawn, January 24th, 2018