Egyptian authorities detained Tuesday Sami Anan, a former army general who had announced his candidacy for the upcoming presidential elections and was seen as President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi’s last major challenger as he attempts to secure a second term in office.
The ex-military chief of staff Lieutenant General Anan was taken to the Military Prosecutor's office in Cairo, according to his son and one of his lawyers.
His arrest came shortly after the army made a statement on state TV saying that his candidacy was invalid due to the fact that he had not properly ended his service at the military, a requirement for running for office under Egyptian law. The army said he had falsified his end of service documents.
Anan's spokesman denied he had broken any laws. The charges "come from an inaccurate reading of Anan's announcement," Hazem Hosni told Reuters, without elaborating. The campaign announced Anan was halting his bid, which he had announced just last week.
"To be banned by the state to enter the elections ... (means) that the state doesn't want to hold an election," Hosni said. The Military Prosecution later on Tuesday issued a statement banning media coverage of its investigation into Anan.
Anan, who served as armed forces chief of staff from 2005-2012, was the final high profile challenger to Sisi left in the race after a number of others dropped out, some citing intimidation by the authorities.
Ahmed Shafik, a former prime minister and air force chief, abandoned a bid this month, saying that after several years living abroad he was out of touch with Egyptian politics. The announcement came amid media criticism and speculation that he was being held by authorities in a Cairo hotel. In 2011 Shafik had sought refuge in the United Arab Emirates after the ouster of his boss Egyptian dictator Hosni Mubarak.
However, after he announced his presidential run, he claimed that the UAE, a major Sisi ally and funder, was preventing him from traveling to Egypt.
Mohamed Anwar al-Sadat, the nephew of assassinated President Anwar al-Sadat, said last week he would not run, citing an environment of fear surrounding the vote. Rights lawyer Khaled Ali has said he will still run, but he might be disqualified over a legal case against him.
Sisi, who as military chief led the military coup against Egypt’s first-ever democratically elected President Mohamed Morsi in 2013 and was elected president the following year, announced last week he will seek a second term in the election set for late March.
The economy has been hit hard under Sisi as unrest in the country has continued since the Arab Spring-inspired protests ousted Mubarak in 2011, which has crippled the tourism sector.
Sisi has also introduced harsh austerity measures in the country after taking a large US$12 billion loan from International Monetary Fund. Sisi has also been accused of a brutal crackdown on dissent as many secular and Islamist activists who were part of the 2011 uprising are either killed or jailed.
Just weeks into his military takeover in 2013, Sisi’s junta regime ordered the killing of almost 1,000 civilians as they organized a sit-in at a mosque near Rabba square in Cairo against the ousting of President Morsi.