Egypt places soccer star on its terror list

CAIRO, Egypt (AFP) — Egypt has added Mohamed Aboutrika, one of the most successful African soccer players of his generation, to its terror watch list on suspicions he financed the banned Muslim Brotherhood, his lawyer said Tuesday.

The Brotherhood was outlawed in 2013, months after the army overthrew Islamist president Mohammed Morsi, who hailed from the movement.

A court official said Tuesday that Aboutrika was one of more than 1,500 people, including Morsi and other Muslim Brotherhood members behind bars, who were added to the watch list last week.

In 2015 a government committee froze the assets of the former player for the Cairo-based club Al Ahly and Egypt’s national team, two years after he retired.

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi listens to US Secretary of State John Kerry during a meeting at the presidential palace in Cairo on May 18, 2016. (Amr Nabil/Pool/AFP)

According to an anti-terror law imposed in 2015 by President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi, anyone on the country’s terror list is subject to a travel ban, with their passport and assets liable to be frozen.

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Aboutrika helped deliver repeated victories for Egypt in the African Cup and played on winning Al Ahly teams in the African Champions League.

He publicly endorsed Morsi’s presidential bid in 2012.

Morsi went on to become Egypt’s first democratically elected president, only for the army, prompted by large protests against the Islamist, to oust him one year later and crack down on his supporters.

Aboutrika’s lawyer Mohamed Osman said that the court’s decision to add him to the terror watch list was “contrary to the law,” saying the retired player “has not been convicted or formally notified of any of the charges against him.”

“We will appeal this decision,” he said, adding that “if he is added to the list there will be many legal consequences, notably the travel ban.”

Asset freeze

The freeze on Aboutrika’s assets is still in force, despite two court orders that it be lifted, Osman added.

In an interview with state-run Al-Ahram newspaper in May 2015, Aboutrika denied that his company — or any of his partners — had ever funded the Islamist movement.

Aboutrika is currently in Qatar working as a commentator for BeIN sports channel, Osman told AFP on Wednesday.

The soccer player’s fans took to social media to express their anger at the ruling, tweeting with the Arabic hashtag #Aboutrika_is_not_a_terrorist.

Aboutrika is not a terrorist#ارهابي_القلوب

— Tekko UA ????✌ (@TekkoUa) January 18, 2017

Former Egypt international and Tottenham Hotspur striker Ahmed “Mido” Hossam called on authorities to clarify if they had evidence Aboutrika was linked to terrorism.

“Until that time we will all keep defending him and I will continue to support him,” he tweeted. “I doubt a man of his character could do anything against Egypt.”

Television presenter Wael al-Ibrashy said that “instead of being put on a list of glory, of champions, he has been put on a list of terrorists.”

Former Egyptian president Mohammed Morsi in a makeshift courtroom at the national police academy, in Cairo, Egypt, Saturday, June 18, 2016. (AP/Amr Nabil)

Former Egyptian president Mohammed Morsi in a makeshift courtroom at the national police academy, in Cairo, Egypt, Saturday, June 18, 2016. (AP/Amr Nabil)

Since Morsi’s overthrow, a police crackdown against the Brotherhood has left hundreds dead and thousands jailed.

Militants, mainly Islamic State group jihadists in the Sinai Peninsula, have killed hundreds of policemen and soldiers in attacks.

The Brotherhood, which espoused change through elections, denies it is involved in the violence, but analysts believe that segments of the group have turned to attacking police.

Aboutrika retired in 2013, and the 38-year-old has since avoided expressing his political views publicly.

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