An Egyptian court has sentenced prominent dissident Hisham Kassem to six months in prison, his lawyer and political movement said, a move barring him from taking part in campaigning for next year’s presidential election. It comes one day after Egypt’s only candidate campaigning so far for the election, Ahmed al-Tantawi, revealed his phone had been bugged by authorities, according to a report by the University of Toronto’s Citizen Lab. A day earlier, Tantawi had denounced harassment by the security forces against his teams and supporters. Kassem was also slapped with a 20,000-pound (about $650) fine after being found guilty of defaming a former minister and “contempt of officials”, Gameela Ismail, a member of his Free Current liberal opposition movement, wrote on X, formerly Twitter. His lawyer Nasser Amin wrote on Facebook that the verdict would be appealed in a court hearing set to take place on October 7. Kassem, 64, had begun a hunger strike, his supporters said earlier this month, after the opening of his trial, before ending it days ago. He was initially summoned after a former minister complained he had shared online articles suggesting the minister had embezzled funds. The opposition activist was later accused of “contempt” by officers during questioning at a police station. He has been in custody since August 20. Kassem’s Free Current coalition, formed in June by opposition parties, advocates economic liberalisation and calls for an end to the army’s stranglehold on the Egyptian economy. London-based Amnesty International on Thursday called on Egypt’s authorities to “immediately release” Kassem, saying he had been “arbitrarily detained”. “The prosecution of Hisham Kassem for simply posting critical messages online is a signal that the Egyptian authorities’ relentless campaign to silence peaceful critics and punish dissent… is continuing in full force,” said Philip Luther, Amnesty’s research and advocacy director in the region. Several opposition figures, including renowned activist Ahmed Douma, received presidential pardons in past weeks in what many analysts saw as a bid to curry public and international favour ahead of next year’s election.