Egyptian authorities have added retired football star Mohamed Aboutrika, one of the country’s all-time greatest athletes, to an official “terror list”.
Aboutrika, dubbed The Magician, is accused of funding the banned Muslim Brotherhood, which Egypt’s government designated a “terrorist” organisation after the army removed democratically elected President Mohamed Morsi from office in July 2013.
Since then, a police crackdown against the Brotherhood, which maintains that it is peaceful, has left hundreds dead and tens of thousands jailed, many under draconian anti-protest laws.
Under an anti-terrorism law passed in 2015 and heavily criticised by international human rights groups, any person placed on a “terror list” is subject to a travel ban and faces having their passports and assets frozen for three years.
Aboutrika, 38, publicly supported Morsi’s bid to become president in 2012 but has denied that he ever funded the Brotherhood.
Mohamed Osman, Aboutrika’s lawyer, said the Criminal Court’s decision was “contrary to the law”, adding that his client has not been convicted or formally notified of any of the charges against him.”
“We will appeal this decision,” he said.
In 2015, a government committee established to seize and manage Brotherhood properties and funds froze Aboutrika’s assets.
Osman, the lawyer, said Aboutrika’s asset freeze is still in place despite having been lifted by a court ruling in June 2016.
The former midfielder is currently in Gabon as a commentator for the Africa Cup of Nations tournament.
Osman declined to specify when his client might return to his home country.
Besides Abutrika, Egypt’s “terrorism list” currently includes more than 1,500 names, including Morsi, Mohammed Badie, the Muslim Brotherhood’s spiritual guide, and other leaders of the group.
Ashraf Bader Aldin, a former member of the Egyptian parliament’s planning and budget commission, says the government “is accusing this small number of people for all of Egypt’s failures”.
“All of the people are accused of different things like harming the economy and spreading false information … and are blamed for the rise of unemployment among other things,” Bader Aldin, who is also included in the “terror list”, told Al Jazeera.
“It doesn’t make any sense. Also, the ‘terrorists’ on the list are placed there for three years. If we are ‘terrorists’, why are we listed only for three years?”
Footballer of the Year
Aboutrika won an unprecedented fourth African Footballer of the Year award after helping Cairo’s Al-Ahly to its eighth African Champions League title before retiring after in late 2013.
Earlier on Wednesday, the Egyptian government announced another step in its crackdown against the Brotherhood.
It said it had arrested nine alleged leaders of the group for planning to “disrupt order and security” on the upcoming January 25 anniversary of the 2011 uprising that removed longtime leader Hosni Mubarak.
In a statement, the interior ministry said the men had scheduled meetings a day earlier in Cairo and had plans “aimed at provoking public opinion by exploiting the economic situation the country is going through and coordinating with extremist entities”.
Egypt’s economy is a particularly sensitive topic this year, as the country has undertaken drastic economic policy changes to rein in unsustainable spending on subsidies and allow the currency to float freely, moves that have pushed up prices sharply.
The poor, who make up nearly half the country, have been particularly squeezed.
In a statement, the ministry accused the group of planning to fabricate crises, in particular among “the masses and workers”.