A total of 165 people jailed under a controversial anti-protest law received an official pardon in Egypt on Wednesday in a symbolic pre-Ramadan move aimed at mollifying critics of President Abdel-Fatah el-Sissi.
Most of those released were "young people and minors" according to the presidential statement. None of newly freed prisoners were among the many well-known political activists that have been jailed for violating the law which has dramatically restricted the right to protest.
The law was passed in mid-2013 just months after the army, which was then controlled by current president Sissi, overthrew Mohammed Morsi of the Muslim Brotherhood, the democratically elected successor to ousted dictator Hosni Mubarak. In the aftermath, 40,000 people have been arrested to referred to the courts for violating the law restricting public demonstrations, said Human Rights Watch.
Those arrested and charged under the law include Ahmed Maher, founder of the April 6 Youth Movement and a prominent voice in the 2011 demonstrations that brought down Mubarak. He was sentenced to three years in prison. Leftist blogger Alaa Abdel-Fattah was similarly sentenced to five years.
During Sissi's administration, hundreds have been sentenced to death, including former President Morsi, whose Muslim Brotherhood group has also been banned. The speedy mass trials of offenders that has become routine in Egypt was "unprecedented in human history," according to the United Nations.
es/rc (AFP, Reuters)