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Egypt ex-graft chief freed from prison, charged again: activist

UAE President Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan and Egypt President Abdel Fattah El Sisi at the World Government Summit in Dubai. (WAM)
  • Ahead of his release, Geneina was transferred to civilian state security prosecution, where he was "charged in a new case and released without bail
  • Geneina was head of Egypt's Central Auditing Organization until he was sacked by President al-Sisi in 2016 for allegedly exaggerating the cost of corruption

Former Egyptian anti-corruption chief Hisham Geneina was released after completing a five-year prison sentence and charged under a new case on Tuesday, a human rights activist said.

A military court had found Geneina guilty in 2018 of “spreading information to harm the military”, after he had said in an interview with news website HuffPost Arabi that a former presidential candidate held documents that would “incriminate many people” within the regime.

Ahead of his release, Geneina was transferred to civilian state security prosecution, where he was “charged in a new case and released without bail but on guarantee of his place of residence”, rights defender Hossam Bahgat told AFP.

Geneina was head of Egypt’s Central Auditing Organization until he was sacked by President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi in 2016 for allegedly exaggerating the cost of corruption.

Using reports between 2012 and 2015, Geneina had put the cost of corruption at $66 billion.

Geneina became a top aide to former military chief of staff Sami Anan, who had planned to challenge Sisi in presidential polls before he himself was arrested.

Now in his late 60s, Geneina was charged Tuesday with “joining a terrorist group and spreading false news”, according to Bahgat.

This is the same case in which a number of journalists were detained in 2018, including Moataz Adnan, who conducted the HuffPost interview and was released in 2021.

“It is typical of the practice of rotation,” Bahgat said, referring to what rights groups call a “revolving door” system where prisoners are detained on new charges instead of released.

Rights groups say there are around 60,000 political prisoners in Egypt, many facing brutal conditions in overcrowded cells.

Egypt, long criticised for its rights record, has in the past year granted pardons and announced a “national dialogue” that has been slow to get going.

Geneina’s release comes a day after opposition figure Mamdouh Hamza arrived in Egypt after his name was removed from the state’s “arrival watch-list”, by which dissidents abroad are often detained when they return to the country.

The emergency court decision that sentenced Hamza to six months in prison and added him to the state terrorism list in absentia was overruled in 2021.

Hamza, in his mid-70s, had remained out of Egypt for more than three years, and is set to stand for a retrial in the coming months, according to local media.

He had been accused of inciting terrorism for tweets he wrote in 2017 in support of Cairo residents facing eviction.

“If this is the state’s direction now, then we’re on the right track,” Hamza said in a video he posted to Facebook after his arrival.

“But it can’t stop here. They told me the country has its arms open to its loyal sons, I’ve met so many loyal sons abroad, and there are also loyal sons in prison.”