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From cafe worker to lawyer, who is Egyptian presidential runner Khalid Ali?

Published: Updated:

Egyptian human rights and labor lawyer Khaled Ali is so far the only candidate to announce that he will challenge a likely bid by President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi in next year’s presidential elections.

Unlike 2012, when he was a latecomer in joining a fierce presidential race at the time, Ali has been an early bird in announcing his bid to run for presidency in 2018.

From a coffee shop worker to a fierce lawyer, here’s a look back at Khalid Ali’s career life.

Early life

Ali was born on Feb. 26, 1972, in the village of Meet Yaeesh, the place of his origin, which is found in the Egyptian governorate of Dakhalia. He is the second sibling among five girls and three boys.

He joined law school in Egypt’s University of Zagazig in 1990 and graduated in 1994.

During his school years, he would work in the summer to help his family. He worked as a porter who carries rice, then in a biscuit factory, and a worker in a coffee shop called Sphinx.

Upon graduating from college, he conducted an unpaid internship at a local law firm.

He got married in 2002 and has two children, a daughter named Amina and a son called Omar.

Fierce opposition lawyer

Ali made a name for himself by being a lawyer fighting for labor rights and a promoter of social justice.

He established the Egyptian Center for Economic and Social Rights in 2009 and formerly served as its executive director. In 2010, he won a case against an executive who exploited the rights of his workers.

Ali was also known to be an outspoken critic of the regime of Hosni Mubarak regime.

In 1999, he was a founding member of the independent Hisham Mubarak Law Center, where he worked to provide legal support for detained and imprisoned anti-Mubarak activists.

Mubarak’s security forces stormed the center’s office and arrested Ali for several days in early February 2011, during the leader’s last days in office. They accused him of organizing illegal revolutionary activities.

A face from the revolution

Ali has been one of many figures at the forefront of the revolution that began on January 25, 2011 and led to Mubarak’s ouster 18 days later.

He was often seen leading marches and chanting the revolution’s major slogans, calling for “bread, freedom and social justice.”

When he took part in the 2012 presidential elections, he was the youngest candidate, and the last one to join the race.

In the elections he came in seventh place out of 13 candidates, with average of 134,000 votes.

He now leads the leftwing Bread and Freedom Party, eight of whose members have been arrested since April on charges including “misusing social media to incite against the state” and insulting the president.

Presidential bid at stake

Ali raised a few eyebrows by announcing his presidential bid last week, increasing speculations regarding whether he stands a fair chance in the elections, provided his not barred from polls.

His presidential bid is legally at stake because a Cairo court sentenced him in September to three months in jail over an allegedly rude hand gesture deemed a public indecency.

The court ordered him to pay 1,000 Egyptian pounds to remain outside pending his appeal.

The prominent lawyer denied the charges, claiming they are politically motivated.

But if the guilty verdict is upheld he will not be allowed to run, even if he is not jailed.

Although President Sisi hasn’t formally confirmed that he would run again in 2018, he is widely expected to run for re-election this April.

In remarks to Al Arabiya English, Egyptian analyst Amr Hashem cast doubt on Ali’s ability to get far at all in the polls, saying any candidate has to have the military’s blessing to stand a chance in the coming elections.

-This article includes background information from Reuters, Egypt Independent, Tahrir News