An Egyptian court sentenced former presidential candidate Abdel Moneim Aboul Fotouh and several prominent figures from the banned Muslim Brotherhood to lengthy jail terms, on accusations including plotting to overthrow the state.
Aboul Fotouh, who is in his early 70s and according to his family suffers from several medical conditions, was sentenced to 15 years in prison, subject to appeal, the court ruling said.
Rights groups say thousands of politicians, activists and journalists are detained in Egypt after unfair trials or without legal basis.
Aboul Fotouh quit the Muslim Brotherhood in 2011 after disagreements over the role of religion in politics and founded the more centrist Strong Egypt party, launching an independent bid for the presidency in 2012.
The interior ministry later accused him of meeting Brotherhood leaders to stir unrest, which he denied.
He was arrested in February 2018 after giving interviews that were sharply critical of President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, a month before Sisi was re-elected.
Others sentenced on Sunday include Mohamed al-Qassas, Aboul Fotouh’s deputy, who received a 10-year sentence, Mahmoud Ezzat, the former acting Brotherhood leader detained in Cairo in 2020, who received 15 years, and Ibrahim Mounir, a Brotherhood leader living in exile, who was handed a life sentence.
Egypt banned the Brotherhood after Sisi, then army chief, led the overthrow of democratically elected Brotherhood President Mohamed Mursi following mass protests in 2013.
Authorities accuse the Brotherhood of promoting militancy and subversion, accusations it strongly denies.
Mursi died after collapsing in a prison courtroom in 2019, while other leaders of the group have been jailed or left the country as a result of a far-reaching crackdown on political dissent that extended to liberal as well as Islamist critics.