Hesham Genena, a former anti-corruption watchdog chief and a leading member of an opposition campaign against President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, was seriously injured during a suspected kidnapping attempt on Saturday, 27 January 2018. Genena was heading to court to protest his sacking as Egypt’s top corruption official when four men jumped out of two cars that blocked the path of Genena’s car outside his suburban Cairo home.
“One car stopped in front and four thugs came out from the second with sticks and knifes. They beat him ruthlessly,” recounted Hazem Hosny, a senior official in the Anan campaign. The thugs were stopped when passers-by and members of his family rushed to his rescue and a fight ensued, in which Genena suffered serious injuries to his face and leg. The attackers were apprehended, but the drivers of the two cars were able to escape before police arrived at the scene. “His knee is broken and he is bleeding from several parts of his body … they were trying to kill him,” his wife, Wafaa Kedieh, explained to reporters.
While Genena recuperates in hospital, lawyers argue that they suspect the attacks are repeat criminals retained by police as thugs, a habit that rights activists in Egypt claim to be a common practice.
Genena was working to elect former military chief-of-staff Lieutenant General Sami Anan, the last opposition seen as a potential threat to the re-election of Sisi in elections planned for March 2018. He had been tapped earlier this month to be a deputy to Sami Anan, but Anan’s campaign was abruptly halted after he was arrested this week and accused of running for office without military permission. Anan was the fourth potential opposition to Sisi to be prosecuted or detained, while other candidates have chosen to withdraw in the face of threats. Sisi’s draconian steps against opponents is making it clear that the presidential election in March won’t be democratic.
President Sisi fired Genena as head of Egypt’s Central Auditing Organization (CAO) in 2016 after Genena publicly announced that tens of billions of dollars had been lost in government corruption. A pro-government newspaper quoted him as saying that Egypt wasted 600 billion pounds in corruption in 2015 alone. He later said he was misquoted and that his remarks referred to the last four-year period. In June 2016, Genena was charged with spreading “false news” and “disturbing” Egypt’s security. The removal and trial capped a series of measures critics argue were aimed at sacking the chief auditor after speaking against corruption. These authoritarian patterns have diminished hopes of more democracy after the Arab Spring. The March elections prove Egypt is far from this goal, with critics arguing that the situation is far worse than under the previous authoritarian President Mubarak.