Egyptian govt. asks Spain to extradite dissident who sparked September protests


An Egyptian dissident activist who exposed corruption at the highest levels of the government that sparked protests across cities in Egypt last September is fighting extradition from Spain.

Mohamed Ali, in a series of speeches shared online, called for a revolution after exposing what he described as widespread corruption and lavish lifestyles at the highest levels of the Egypt regime and army.

His broadcasts revealed a deep knowledge of the regime, based on his construction work, drew large audiences and sparked rare street protests, followed by mass arrests of as many as 3,000 people.

At one point Ali, a relative political innocent, vowed to lead a unified political opposition movement to overthrow the regime of President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi, but he became disillusioned with the project after his calls for further protests were not answered.

He has been living in Barcelona for more than a year, but was summoned last week by the Spanish judiciary in Madrid to answer the Egyptian demand for his extradition on the grounds of money-laundering and tax evasion.

The Egyptian prosecutor’s office has accused Ali of defrauding €7.6m (£6.9m) in three cases of fraudulent real-estate sales and a fourth for money-laundering.

The Spanish government does not allow extradition on political grounds, but the Egyptian government has told Spanish officials that Ali is wanted to answer charges of tax fraud between 2006 and 2018.

Ali insists he is innocent and at the video hearing on July 09 told the judiciary that the fraud allegations were a transparent excuse by the Egyptian government, which wants to throw him in jail for his political views.

Another hearing will be held in 45 days, but in a potentially encouraging sign for Ali, the judge, José de la Mata, did not imprison him pending the next hearing. The Egyptian government had requested his immediate arrest.

Ali worked on major development projects in Egypt for 15 years, and in anger at the corruption he witnessed started to recall it using a YouTube channel that suddenly won him mass audiences.

The episodes he described, and the colourful language he used, became gripping viewing for ordinary Egyptians, leading to street protests over three days. Sisi himself felt forced to respond to the charges, which only added to the impact of the story.

An Egyptian court sentenced Ali in absentia to five years’ imprisonment on tax evasion charges in February and ordered him to pay about US$250,000 (£200,000) in back taxes. In its 20-page filing to Spain’s judiciary, Egypt repeated many of those accusations, saying he had struck property deals dating back to 2006 “without declaring part of his sales”.

Ali told the Guardian the regime had known all about his activities and if authorities believed he was acting corruptly they could have taken immediate action by not allowing him to leave the country in 2018.

Ali had few documents to prove his accusations against the regime, but the detail he provided, including a palace for Sisi as minister of defence, clearly had credence within the country.

Ali has not sought political asylum in Spain and is being given legal assistance to make his case as he does not have the resources to mount a legal defence. (Source: The Guardian)