Former Egyptian Prime Minister Ahmed Shafiq says that the United Arab Emirates has barred him from leaving the country after he announced his intention to run in Egypt's upcoming presidential election.
"I was surprised to know that I am prevented from leaving the UAE for reasons that I don’t understand and I am not willing to understand," Shafiq said during a video statement on Wednesday.
Earlier in the day, Shafiq told Reuters that he wanted to take part in the 2018 presidential election against incumbent President Abdel Fateh el-Sisi.
"I have announced my intention to run in the upcoming presidential election and I was planning to start a tour among the Egyptian communities living abroad before going back to Egypt in the next few days," he noted.
He went on to thank the UAE for hosting him after he fled Egypt following his loss to Mohamed Morsi in the closely contested 2012 election.
"I have often stated my appreciation for the UAE for hosting me... However, I reject any intervention in Egypt's affairs by preventing me from participating in a constitutional right and a holy mission to serve my country. I call on the UAE leaders to order the lifting of any restrictions on my ability to travel," he said.
After arriving in the UAE, Egypt put him on trial in absentia finding him guilty of corruption charges, but later acquitted him.
Shafiq served as prime minister for just over a month during the 2011 uprising that resulted in the ouster of at long-time dictator Hosni Mubarak.
According to Samer Shehata, an associate professor at the University of Oklahoma, it is still unclear if the travel ban was enforced on a request by Sisi, who came to power after ousting Morsi in a July 2013 military coup.
"It is not clear if Sisi or the Egyptian government is behind this move," Shehata told Qatar-based broadcaster Al Jazeera.
"The United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia are among the staunchest supporters of the current Egyptian president, so they have an interest in Sisi continuing...They are in favor of Sisi staying in power and not in [favor of] seeing any potential challengers," he added.
Shehata added that in the upcoming election, Shafiq could be one of the few candidates that may have a small chance of challenging Sisi.
"The reality is that the system is engineered so that Sisi will win. He will win another term next year", Shehata said.