Egypt frees ex-general arrested after challenging president

CAIRO (AP) — The Egyptian military on Sunday released one of the country’s former chiefs-of-staff, nearly two years after his arrest following an announcement that he would challenge President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi in the 2018 presidential vote, military officials and his lawyer said.

A military court had sentenced Sami Annan earlier this year to nine years’ imprisonment. He was taken into custody in January last year on charges of fraudulently registering to vote and of breaching regulations by declaring his intention to run in the presidential election two months later, without first clearing it with the military.

The former general was also charged with incitement against the armed forces over a video he had released declaring his candidacy.

The military at the time said that Annan, who served as chief-of-staff until he was removed from office in 2012, was still formally in the reserves and therefor ineligible to vote. El-Sissi won the vote virtually unchallenged and was reelected.

Annan, 71, was freed on Sunday, two military officials told The Associated Press, speaking on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk to reporters.

Annan’s lawyer, Naser Amin, confirmed the former general was released, saying it was for “health reasons” and that Annan was already back at his home in Cairo.

Annan served as military chief under longtime autocrat Hosni Mubarak, who was toppled in the 2011 popular uprising known as one of the Arab Spring revolts in the region. He was subsequently sacked by President Mohammed Morsi, a Muslim Brotherhood stalwart who was elected in 2012.

In 2013, el-Sissi, who also hailed from the military, led the military’s ouster of Morsi, amid massive protests against the Brotherhood’s divisive rule. Morsi died during one of his several trials in a Cairo courtroom earlier this year.