Several political figures involved in discussions to form a new political alliance meant to stand in 2020 parliamentary elections were arrested beginning at dawn on Tuesday.
At least eight people have been swept up in the arrest campaign, most prominently former Member of Parliament Zyad Elelaimy, journalist Hisham Fouad, Omar El-Shenety, the founder of the Multiples Group investment firm, and Hossam Moanis, the former presidential candidate Hamdeen Sabbahi’s campaign manager.
The other four people identified by the Interior Ministry in a press release issued this morning are Mostafa Abdel Moez Abdel Sattar, Osama Abdel Aal Mohamed al-Aqbawy, Ahmed Abdel Galeel Hussein Ghoneim, and Hassan Mohamed Hussein Barbary.
Those detained face accusations of leading a plot “to bring down the state” ahead of the June 30 anniversary. This plot — identified by the ministry as “The Plan for Hope” — was backed by 19 companies and economic entities secretly managed by Muslim Brotherhood leaders from abroad, according to the Interior Ministry.
However, a source in Parliament tells Mada Masr that the “hope” referenced in the ministry’s statement comes from the working name of a newly formed political alliance of non-Islamist groups that was scheduled to be launched in the coming days. According to the source, who spoke to Mada Masr on condition of anonymity, the Coalition for Hope includes MPs, political party leaders, youth and journalists who were looking to enter the political arena and prepare to run in the upcoming 2020 parliamentary elections.
Members of the alliance have held meetings over the past two months in the offices of a number of political parties, according to the MP. The preliminary meetings, which the source took part in, were held openly and not in secret. The most recent meetings have been held at the offices of the Conservative Party and the Egyptian Social Democratic Party, the source said.
In these meetings, members discussed establishing a set of governing rules for the alliance, most notably that no members of the regime of former President Hosni Mubarak or Muslim Brotherhood would be allowed to be involved.
“We had finished the political document and we were about to finish the organizational paperwork, and we were preparing for a press conference that we were going to announce in a matter of days,” the MP said.
For the source, the arrests on Tuesday are an attempt to foreclose on the potential coalition.
“Those arrested early this morning have joined the long line of the oppressed because of their political work,” said the parliamentarian. “We want a statement from the political leadership telling us whether political work is allowed in Egypt or not.”
Some but not all of these arrested on Tuesday were involved in the emerging political coalition, according to a source in the Civil Democratic Movement, an alliance of political parties that was formed in December 2017.
The source confirmed that meetings have been underway in recent weeks to form a political coalition to field members to run in the 2020 parliamentary elections. These meetings, according to the source, have been attended by members of the Civil Democratic Movement alongside members of the 25-30 Alliance parliamentary bloc and a number of independent political figures.
The Civil Democratic Movement includes the Dostour Party, the Popular Socialist Alliance, the Egyptian Social Democratic Party, the Bread and Freedom Party, and others.
The source, who spoke to Mada Masr on condition of anonymity, denied any links between the new political coalition and the Muslim Brotherhood, as claimed by the Interior Ministry, stressing that the people involved “are extremely opposed to the Brotherhood.”
Elelaimy, the most prominent of those arrested, is a lawyer and former member of parliament who helped found the Youth Revolution Coalition in 2011 and the Egyptian Social Democratic Party.
The journalist Hisham Fouad is a member of the Revolutionary Socialists and a trade union activist, who is involved in the Front to Defend Journalists and Freedoms initiative in the Journalists Syndicate. Fouad’s assets were frozen in 2015 as part of a state campaign to seize assets of blacklisted groups, most notably the Muslim Brotherhood.
Moanis is a senior member of the Karama Party, a Nasserist party founded by former presidential candidate Hamdeen Sabbahi.
Shenety previously held a number of executive positions in the business sector, including managing director of the Multiples Investments Group and a board member of the private equity firm, The Abraaj Group. In August 2017, the state committee in charge of managing Muslim Brotherhood assets took control of the Arab International Company for Commercial Agencies, which owns Shenety’s Alef bookstore chain.
Most of the arrests took place on Tuesday around dawn. Attorney Khalid Ali said that Elelaimy, Fouad, Barbary and Moanis appeared later in the morning at the State Security Prosecution and are being held in detention pending investigation. He did not provide information on the whereabouts of the other defendants.
Eyewitnesses to his arrest told Elelaimy’s mother, Ikram Youssef, that he was arrested while walking to his car in the Cairo neighborhood of Maadi. Youssef told Mada Masr that those arresting Elelaimy identified themselves as National Security Agency agents. One of the eyewitnesses told Youssef that he recognized one of the officers making the arrest from the Maadi police station.
Youssef said she was concerned about Elelaimy’s health, as he suffers from high blood pressure, diabetes and asthma. She added that she was trying to find out where he was being detained — which has not been disclosed — in order to bring him medication.
Fouad’s wife, Madiha Hussein, told Mada Masr that at least 10 armed, plainclothes security forces, some of whom were wearing masks, raided their house at dawn, while others were stationed outside.
“They searched the house and confiscated some of the books and Fouad’s papers,” Hussein said. “An officer told me he was taken to the Cairo Security Directorate headquarters.” She added that when she asked to see an arrest warrant, an officer told her he would only show it to her husband. However, she told Mada Masr that this never happened, adding that she plans to file a complaint with the Public Prosecution office about her husband’s disappearance.
An informed source told Mada Masr that Moanis was arrested from his home in Manial at 3:30 am and that his lawyers are still trying to find out where he is being detained.
According the Interior Ministry, an investigation by the National Security Agency tied the defendants to the alleged plot based on the “establishment of illegal cash flows from abroad in collaboration with the Muslim Brotherhood in hostile countries to finance anti-state activities and carry out acts of violence.”
The Interior Ministry statement drew links between those arrested and figures outside of the country, including Muslim Brotherhood leaders Mahmoud Hussein and Ali Bateekh, opposition politican Ayman Nour, and media figures Moataz Matar and Mohammed Nasser of the TV channel Mekemeleen.