Egypt court hands exiled dissident jail term for tax evasion

Cairo (AFP) –


A self-exiled Egyptian businessman and dissident who has accused President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi of corruption has been sentenced in absentia to five years in jail for tax evasion, a judicial source said Tuesday.

Mohamed Ali, a construction contractor and fledgling actor, has posted viral videos accusing the country's military elite of wasting taxpayers' money on vanity projects.

After Ali urged Egyptians to protest on September 20, hundreds took to the streets in Cairo and elsewhere, drawing a heavy-handed response from security forces, who fired tear gas and rubber bullets at demonstrators.

The judicial source said Ali had been sentenced recently by the Cairo Criminal Court, without specifying when the ruling was handed down.

The court had released on Monday "the reasoning for its earlier verdict in the tax evasion case against Ali where he was sentenced to five years in absentia and fined 50,000 Egyptian pounds ($3,000)," the source said.

The court had also ordered Ali to repay at least 48 million Egyptian pounds ($3 million) to the country's tax authority.

Protests have been restricted in Egypt under a 2013 law passed following the military's ouster of Islamist president Mohamed Morsi.

In an October interview with AFP in Spain, Ali said he was working with the opposition to topple Sisi.

"The opposition in and out of Egypt are all with me because we all have the same goal of getting rid of Sisi," Ali said.

He also alleges he is owed millions of Egyptian pounds for work he completed but was never paid for.

Although he did not produce concrete evidence, he pointed to specific palaces and villas including in Cairo and Alexandria that he said Sisi had commissioned him to build.

Sisi has denied the allegations and insisted the palaces were built for the country and not for himself.

In the wake of the September protests, Egyptian authorities arrested some 4,000 people, including well-known academics, activists and lawyers, rights groups say.

Activists say the crackdown is one of the worst since Sisi took power in 2014.