Egypt pressures Spain to extradite dissident activist
An Egyptian dissident activist who allegedly exposed corruption in the highest levels of the government is fighting extradition from Spain, The New York Times reported on Tuesday.
Mohamed Ali, a former construction worker, posted a series videos revealing endemic corruption among the military and regime of President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, sparking rare protests which led to the arrest of nearly 3,000 people.
Ali has been living in self-imposed exile in Catalonia since 2018, after his calls for further protests were left unanswered and feeling disillusioned with leading an opposition movement to overthrow Sisi.
Last week, the Spanish judiciary summoned him after Egypt demanded his extradition on the grounds of alleged money-laundering and tax evasion, The Guardian report, in fraud charges totalling €7.6 million (£6.9 million).
Egypt and Spain have no extradition treaty and the request must be decided by a judge. Ali has 45 days from the July 9 preliminary hearing to present his case.
In an email to NYT, Ali, who maintains his innocence, has said the charges are fabricated to punish him for his activism.
Egypt is known to use legal to tools to silence Sisi's vocal critics, particularly those abroad and beyond the reach of security services.
Numerous extradition requests sent to countries in Europe and Asia in return for dissidents, including leaders of the banned Muslim Brotherhood.
In the case of expatriate critics, Egyptian authorities have turned on their families and relative inside the country.
Last month, US citizen Mohammed Soltan, filed a lawsuit in a US court against former Egyptian Prime Minister Hazem el-Beblawi, accusing him and other Egyptian officials of torture and abuse during his two-year imprisonment on political charges that ended in 2015.
After the lawsuit was filed, Egyptian security services raided the homes Soltan's relatives in Egypt, detaining five men. Authorities also interrogated his father, a jailed Muslim Brotherhood leader.
Mohamed Ali, who worked on development projects inside Egypt for 15 years, won mass audiences after posting videos to Youtube describing in detail accounts of corruption in the country’s ruling circles.
He alleged that Sisi had built a number of luxurious palaces and residences for himself and his family using public funds, at a time when austerity measures were being imposed on ordinary Egyptians and poverty rates were worsening.
His audience took to the streets in three-days of protests, which authorities clamped down own harshly, arresting over 2,300 people, according to Amnesty International.
Ali has since receded into the background, as his family face harassment by security forces and he himself has expressed disappointment that the protest movement was ultimately unable to shake Sisi from power.
An Egyptian court sentenced him in absentia to five years imprisonment on tax evasion charges in February, ordering him to $250,000 in back taxes. In its 20-page filing to Spain's judiciary, Egypt repeated those accusations, referencing alleged property deals dating back to 2006 made "without declaring part of his sales".
Ali denies the charges. "I left Egypt two years ago and no one stopped me. If I have done fraud, why did they let me leave the country?", he told NYT.
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