One of Egypt’s most celebrated football stars, Mohamed Abu Treika, has been added to a government terror list for alleged links to the now-outlawed Muslim Brotherhood, according to his lawyer.
The decision has prompted an outcry from fans on social media networks, with the Arabic hashtags “Abu Treika is Not a Terrorist” and “Terrorist of Our Hearts” emerging as top-trending topics on Twitter nationwide.
According to Abu Treika’s lawyer, Mohamed Othman, the decision was issued on Tuesday by the Cairo Criminal Court without prior knowledge of his lawyers or an explanation from the court as to the reasoning behind it.
Othman explained that the name of the 38-year-old footballer was added to a list of individuals supporting terrorism, along with a host of political opposition figures, primarily alleged members, supporters and financiers of the Muslim Brotherhood.
Following the ouster of former Islamist President Mohamed Morsi on July 3, 2013, the state moved to officially classify the Muslim Brotherhood as a terrorist organization on December 25 of that same year.
While Abu Treika denies any links to the Brotherhood, his support for Morsi during the 2012 presidential elections may have resulted in the decision by Egypt’s Central Bank to freeze the footballer’s assets in May 2015.
However, the asset freeze against Abu Treika was subsequently overturned by an Administrative Court verdict in June 2016.
Othman told the Reuters-affiliate Aswat Masriya website that Tuesday’s decision means that, for the next three years, the footballer’s assets will be frozen and his name will be added to a “no-fly” list in airports across the country.
The defense lawyer added that Abu Treika’s legal team will move to appeal the decision before the Court of Cassation within the next two months.
Abu Treika, who was a mid-fielder and forward in the Ahly Football Club and in Egypt’s national football team, retired from the sport in December 2013 but remains a widely popular figure among Egyptian football fans.
In response to Tuesday’s decision, fellow Egyptian football star, now-retired striker Ahmed “Mido” Hossam, tweeted his support of Abu Treika: “I don’t know the details pertaining to Abu Treika’s problem, but I do testify before God that he is one of the best personalities I have dealt with in my life, and a kind, forgiving man to everybody.”