A military court has sentenced Egypt’s former anti-corruption chief to five years in prison on charges of spreading false news harmful to the military, his lawyer said.
Human rights group Amnesty International condemned the sentencing of Hisham Genena, a former policeman and judge, as another example of what it called Egypt’s crackdown on all dissent under President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi.
“A petition to the military leader is all we can do now,” lawyer Ali Taha told Reuters, referring to Sisi, who last month won a second term in an election in which the only other candidate also said he supported the president.
Genena has long been distrusted by Egyptian authorities who accused him while he was head of the corruption watchdog of defaming the state by exaggerating the scale of public sector graft.
He then served in the campaign team of presidential candidate Sami Anan. Anan was detained in January and accused by the army of running for office without permission, bringing his bid to an end.
Genena himself was arrested and put under investigation by the military prosecutor in February after he told the HuffPost Arabi news website that Anan possessed documents that were damning of senior Egyptian officials. He provided no details.
Anan’s lawyer said Genena’s statements were “completely untrue”, though he did not specify which statements he meant.
Genena was beaten up outside his home shortly after Anan’s arrest and he has accused the government of being behind the assault. Three alleged assailants said Genena’s injuries were the result of a fight after a car accident.
On Tuesday Amnesty criticised Genena’s prison sentence as a violation of his right to free expression.
“The arrest, military trial and outrageous five-year sentence for Hisham Genena is another example of the shameless silencing of anyone who is critical of the Egyptian authorities,” the group’s North Africa Campaigns Director, Najia Bounaim, said in a statement.
“It is now becoming clear that the Egyptian authorities’ recent crackdown on freedom of expression shows no sign of abating,” Bounaim added.
Egypt expanded the jurisdiction of its military courts in 2014 to try civilians accused of acts ranging from attacking state facilities to blocking roads.
The practice is seen by critics as another clampdown on dissent by a government that has jailed thousands of Muslim Brotherhood supporters and targeted other activists.
It is a controversial issue in Egypt, where the armed forces play an influential role in both political and economic spheres. (Editing by Gareth Jones)