A presidential pardon on Wednesday saw Egyptian opposition figure Yahya Abdelhadi released from jail after three years, a lawyer said, making him the country’s latest political prisoner to have his sentence curtailed.
The pardon for Abdelhadi, a key figure in the Kefaya (Enough) movement that helped topple former President Hosni Mubarak, comes after an announcement days earlier that 11 political prisoners would be released by an order from the prosecution.
Lawyer Tareq al-Awadi, a member of a committee formed in April to review the cases of prisoners eligible for presidential pardons, announced Abdelhadi’s release in a Twitter post, with a picture showing him standing outside the prison gates.
A critic of President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi’s administration, Abdelhadi had been sentenced on 23 May to four years in prison for “spreading false news,” after having been arrested in January 2019.
The latest series of releases comes after Sisi called in April for a “political dialogue” and reactivated the previously dormant presidential pardon committee.
Some 41 political prisoners had also been released from remand earlier that month.
Among the 11 prisoners released this week was translator and researcher Kholoud Amer, who was arrested in April 2020 for criticising the government response to the coronavirus pandemic.
‘Long overdue release’
However, the prisoners’ release comes as an Egyptian court on Sunday sentenced former presidential candidate Abdelmoneim Aboul Fotouh to 15 years in prison for “spreading false news” and “incitement against state institutions”.
He was sentenced alongside 24 others, including members of the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood group, who received penalties ranging from 10 years to life in prison, AFP reported.
Amnesty International on Tuesday called on the Egyptian authorities to exclude security agencies from the process of reviewing decisions on whether to grant political prisoners pardons.
“We welcome the long overdue release of those detained solely for exercising their human rights – and the promise to free more,” said Amna Guellali, Amnesty’s deputy director for the Middle East and North Africa.
“Yet thousands of opponents and critics continue to languish in Egyptian jails, while fresh arrests and prosecutions continue unabated,” she said, calling on the authorities to “immediately and unconditionally release anyone detained solely for exercising their human rights”.
Rights groups estimate that some 60,000 political prisoners are being held in Egypt.