According to HRW, the arrests, which took place in late January to February, are part of a government strategy to quell political protests ahead of the next presidential election to be held in late March. Accordingly, various human rights organizations have accused [HRW report] "the Egyptian government of [trampling] over even the minimum requirements for free and fair elections," alleging President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi has created a repression environment.
In February Abd al-Moniem Abu al-Fotouh, 2012 presidential candidate and leader of the Strong Egypt Party, was arrested. HRW reports that he and 15 other members of his party were subsequently placed on the terrorist watch list, without due process as allowed by the 2015 Terrorist Entities Law [text, PDF]. That same month, the Ministry of Interior of Egypt validated their arrest [Facebook post] of al-Fotouh, stating that it had permission from the Supreme State Security Prosecution after receiving information from the National Security Agency that al-Fotouh had contact with the Muslim Brotherhood and was conducting interviews with the intent to cause political unrest. Additionally, the Interior Ministry reported [Facebookpost] that they arrested six members of the Brotherhood, along with firearms, on a farm owned by al-Fotouh. However, his family denies any direct involvement.
Among those arrests were also Mohamed al-Qassas, deputy president of the Strong Egypt Party; Mohamed Abd al-Latif Talaat, secretary-general of the centrist Al-Wasat Party; Hesham Geneina, former head of the Central Auditing Agency; and Chief of Staff Sami Anan, who announced his candidacy for president. All are being detained in conditions, according to HRW are degrading and prone to abuse.
HRW is urging authorities to invalidate their addition to the list, as well as the law itself which allows for arbitrary placement of opponents on the terrorism list, and release those subject to arbitrary arrest, which violates Article 65 and Article 87 of Egypt's Constitution [text, PDF].