Cairo: Egyptian police have arrested leading Islamist Abdul Moneim Abu Al Fatouh over alleged links with the banned Muslim Brotherhood, security sources said Thursday.
Abu Al Fatouh was arrested late Wednesday at his house in the district of Al Tajamuh Al Khames on the outskirts of the Egyptian capital hours after he returned from a trip to London, the sources added.
He is facing charges of having connections with an outlawed group and inciting the overthrow of the government, the sources added.
Six others from Abu Al Fatouh’s Strong Egypt Party were also arrested.
Egypt’s official Middle East News Agency said that the arrests were made upon warrants issued by the Higher State Security Prosecution.
The arrests come weeks before Egypt’s presidential elections in which President Abdul Fattah Al Sissi is poised to win a second term in office.
Abu Al Fatouh, 66, is an outspoken critic of Al Sissi.
An ex-member of the Muslim Brotherhood, Abu Al Fatouh unsuccessfully competed in the 2012 presidential polls that Mohammad Mursi of the Brotherhood won.
Abu Al Fatouh’s niece Sanaa Ahmad told Reuters tens of policemen dressed in civilian clothing came to the house with an arrest warrant and took him away Wednesday night.
Egypt banned the Brotherhood in 2013 after the army led by general-turned-president Al Sissi ousted Mursi, a senior member of the Brotherhood in Egypt.
Abu Al Fatouh quit the Muslim Brotherhood in 2011 to mount an independent bid for the presidency and has distanced himself from the Islamist movement since then.
Abu Al Fatouh’s party deputy, Mohammad Al Qassas, was detained last week and is being held pending an investigation, according to the party’s Facebook page.
The party condemned the arrest and criticised what it called “the systematic targeting of the opposition politicians” in a post earlier this week.
Thirteen local and international rights groups condemned Egypt’s March presidential election on Tuesday, saying the race would neither be free nor fair.
The country’s electoral commission has pledged to run the vote “according to principles of independence, transparency and objectivity.”