Egypt’s president pardoned on Saturday thousands of prisoners including a former policeman jailed over killing a Lebanese pop diva more than a decade ago, according to the official gazette.
President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi granted clemency to a total of 3,157 people jailed on different cases on the occasion of the Eid al-Fitr holiday marking the end of the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan.
Among those pardoned was former policeman Mohsen al-Sukkari, sentenced in 2010 to 25 years for the murder of Lebanese singer Suzanne Tamim.
The court had found that Sukkari acted on instructions from Egyptian real estate tycoon Hisham Talaat Moustafa for a payment of $2 million.
The 2008 killing of Tamim, Moustafa’s lover, sparked public outcry across the Arab region.
Moustafa, a well-known businessman, was sentenced to 15 years for his part in the crime, but he was granted a presidential pardon in 2017 on health grounds.
He was close to Gamal Mubarak, son of the ousted president Hosni Mubarak who was overthrown in the 2011 mass uprising triggered in part by police brutality and rampant corruption.
Moustafa was also member of Mubarak’s now-defunct National Democratic Party.
Last month, Egypt announced the release of nearly 4,000 detainees to mark Sinai Liberation Day.
Some 778 prisoners had been pardoned and released while 233 had been conditionally released, the interior ministry said.
The President customarily grants pardons for prisoners on Sinai Liberation Day, however this year’s amnesty included far more detainees than usual.
Although the authorities made no mention of the coronavirus crisis, the scale of release indicates that they are responding to pressure to reduce overcrowding in the country’s detention facilities, which coud lead to a catastrophic outbreak of the virus.
Last year, 67 inmates were pardoned on the Sinai anniversary, while in 2018, 700 detainees were released.
The interior ministry announced the criteria for this year’s release earlier this month, which included those who had served more than half their sentence, or 15 years of a life sentence.