Outcry on Egyptian social media after football star Aboutrika accused of terrorism
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There’s been a huge outcry among Egyptian fans of the retired footballer Mohamed Aboutrika, after a Cairo court added the sports star’s name to a list of people considered to be terrorists. Outraged fans have been taking to social media in defence of their hero in hopes of pressuring authorities to drop his name from the list.
Mohamed Aboutrika is accused of having financed the Muslim Brotherhood, which has been classified as a terrorist group by the Egyptian government since 2013.
Aboutrika, the former star of the popular Al-Ahly club, has a long history of publicly supporting this Islamist organisation. During the 2012 presidential campaign, Aboutrika announced his support for Mohamed Morsi, the Muslim Brotherhood’s candidate. Aboutrika also denounced the July 2013 coup by Field Marshal Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, which ended up unseating Morsi.
After seizing power, al-Sisi led a crackdown on members of the ousted president’s party. Soon thereafter, Aboutrika was accused of having financed the Muslim Brotherhood through a travel agency he founded in 2013.
The accusations come as a shock to many fans. Aboutrika led the Egyptian national team to the gold at the Africa Cup of Nations on three separate occasions. He also helped his club (Al-Ahly) score four wins at the African League of Champions. He is nothing short of a legend in his country.
An outpouring of support online
Many Egyptians have claimed that the authorities are carrying out a campaign of persecution against the footballer. In this video, a young Egyptian comedian, Mohamed Khamis, used a football metaphor to denounce the authorities’ decision.
Social media has been flooded with messages of support for Aboutrika. One hashtag plays on Aboutrika's nickname, 'Prince of Hearts', tweaking it into 'Terrorist of Hearts'. Another ("Aboutrika, it's the red line") implies that targeting Aboutrika is the final straw.
Translation: “Aboutrika isn’t a criminal. We have to share this message as widely as possible on social media. These a**holes need to listen to us. Maybe we can change things.”
انضف انسان فى بلدنا الاسطورة والخلوق والماجيكو العالم كلو بيكرمه وعندنا فى مصر بيقوله عليه ارهابى يبقى احنا معاك يا امير القلوب وعم الناس . pic.twitter.com/GetgwFxElX— Sayed Raagay (@sayedtreika) 24 janvier 2017
Translation: "The most upstanding person in Egypt. A legend, a gentleman, a wizard. The whole world admires you, but, at home, in Egypt, you are considered a terrorist. We support you, Prince of Hearts.”
What could happen to Aboutrika if he returns to Egypt??
Currently, Mohamed Aboutrika is travelling between certain Gulf states for his work as a consultant for a sports TV station. If this decision is upheld and he returns to Egypt, his passport will be confiscated and he will be banned from leaving the country under an anti-terrorism law adopted in 2015 by the al-Sisi administration.
In May 2015, Aboutrika’s assets were frozen by a commission established by the Ministry of Justice to seize assets belonging to members of the Muslim Brotherhood. Even though two judges ruled in favour of lifting this freeze, it is still in place today.
Aboutrika’s lawyer, Mohamed Osman, told the AFP news agency that the tribunal’s decision to freeze his assets was “against the law” because the former footballer “has not been found guilty by a single court and he has not been formally notified of a single charge against him.” He said that he would appeal.