Egypt court sentences presidential hopeful to 6 years

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CAIRO (AP) — An Egyptian military court on Tuesday sentenced an army colonel to six years in prison after he announced his intention to run against President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi in next year's elections, his defense lawyer told The Associated Press.

The lawyer, Asaad Heikal, said Col. Ahmed Konsowa attended the sentencing hearing by a Cairo military court. He was convicted of violating military regulations banning political activism by active duty officers, he added. The verdict can be appealed.

Konsowa, 42, was detained following his Dec. 2 announcement he would run against el-Sissi, himself a general-turned-president who took office in 2014, a year after he led the military's ouster of a freely elected Islamist president whose one-year rule proved divisive.

Egypt's presidential elections are due early next year. El-Sissi, who quit the army before his successful run for president in 2014, is virtually certain to run for and win a second four-year term, although he has yet to make a formal announcement.

A prominent rights activist, Khaled Ali, has said he would also run. Hanging over his bid, however, is a September conviction for allegedly making an obscene hand gesture the day he won a court case in January against the government's decision to transfer two strategic Red Sea islands to Saudi Arabia. Ali also received a suspended three-month jail sentence. He has appealed the conviction.

If his conviction of alleged indecency — widely seen to be politically motivated — is upheld, he could be disqualified from running.

Another potential candidate is Ahmed Shafiq, a retired air force general who served as the last prime minister under autocrat Hosni Mubarak, ousted in a popular uprising in 2011. Shafiq narrowly lost to the Islamist Mohammed Morsi in 2012. Shortly after, he left for the United Arab Emirates where he lived in self-imposed exile until early this month, when he returned home.

He later said in a television interview that he wanted to take stock of conditions in Egypt before he makes a final decision in whether to run.

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