It is a hot afternoon in the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan and the New Cairo clubhouse is empty. Hisham Genena, Egypt's erstwhile corruption tsar, settles in a corner. "It's quiet here," he says. "We can speak freely."
It has been a long way down for Genena, a former policeman and judge who was appointed to head Egypt's corruption watchdog in 2012 and is now on trial, accused of defaming the state by exaggerating the scale of public sector graft.
Genena says he has done nothing wrong and his case is being used to discourage others from speaking out in a country he says is increasingly in the grip of security agencies.
"I am keen on the success of any president because his success is our success ... but the attitude I'm seeing of using a security grip or reproducing the police state will not be productive," he told Reuters.
"When political parties are absent, NGOs are absent, local media is being crushed, international media too ... is that a sign of a healthy environment in which a country can flourish?"
Three years after general-turned-President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi ousted the Muslim Brotherhood, a crackdown that first targeted opposition activists has now turned on establishment figures like Genena to TV presenters and street performers.
Judges who have opposed mass death sentences have been retired. The head of the Press Syndicate and his deputy are standing trial for the first time in the institution's history.
And this week, citing alleged visa violations, police deported the British-Lebanese host of a talk show launched after the 2011 uprising that ended Hosni Mubarak's 30-year rule and raised hopes of a new era of political openness and social justice.
A law requiring interior ministry go-ahead for any public gathering of more than 10 people is so strictly enforced that police on Monday dispersed hundreds of pupils protesting that their exams had been delayed because the questions were leaked.
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