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Egypt 'anti-Sisi presidential candidate arrested for flipping off' government Open in fullscreen

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Egypt 'anti-Sisi presidential candidate arrested for flipping off' government

Ali was lifted onto the shoulders of supporters while flashed the gesture [Twitter/Mohamed Elsenosy]

Date of publication: 24 May, 2017

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An Egyptian opposition leader has been detained on charges of "offending public decency" over images which showed the rights lawyer "giving the finger" outside a Cairo court.

An Egyptian opposition leader and former presidential candidate has been detained on charges of "offending public decency" amid a wave of arrests of potential candidates in next year's presidential election.

Khaled Ali, who has been widely tipped to challenge President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi in the 2018 elections, was summoned by the prosecution for questioning on Tuesday over images which showed the rights lawyer "giving the finger" outside a Cairo court.

The prosecution ordered him detained until Wednesday when he would be shown the evidence against him, including video footage.

Prosecutors on Wendesday ordered the release of Ali on bail, which was set to 1,000 Egyptian pounds ($55).

Ali was the main lawyer to bring a case against the government after it controversially agreed to hand over two Red Sea islands to Saudi Arabia in April last year.

The agreement to transfer the islands of Tiran and Sanafir sparked rare protests, which bans all but court approved demonstrations.

In January, the key figure among the small but vibrant core of mostly young pro-democracy and secular activists was photographed making a rude gesture as he celebrated a victory in a case he brought against the Sisi government.

At the time, notorious lawyer Samir Sabry, well-known for his multiple lawsuits in the name of morality, filed a complaint with the public prosecutor against Ali for "committing a public act of indecency".

Ali ran in the 2012 election that brought to power Islamist president Mohammad Morsi, who was ousted a year later in a military coup led by Sisi.

Eight members of Ali's left-wing Bread and Freedom Party have been detained since April on charges including "misusing social media to incite against the state" and "insulting the president".

Ali's 2018 candidacy would be a long shot, it could win the support of hundreds of thousands of young Egyptians who participated in the 2011 uprising that toppled autocrat Hosni Mubarak but who are now vilified by pro-government media as foreign agents and saboteurs.

It could also win support among the millions of poor and middle-class Egyptians crushed by the steep rise in prices and services as a result of Sisi's ambitious economic reforms.

Many prominent figures in Egypt have taken to social media to denounce Ali's arrest.

"The regime is committing an indecent act by prosecuting the prominent rights activist behind getting back Tiran and Sanafir, accusing him of committing an indecent act. Khaled Ali was, however, was not among these guys," said human rights advocate, Gamal Eid.

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