Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el Sisi pardons 100 young prisoners on Wednesday, jailed due to the demonstration law, along with all of Al Jazeera journalists including Mohamed Fahmy and Baher Mohamed, security sources told Reuters.
The Egyptian demonstration law criminalizes protesters who gather and chant without prior notice and permit from the ministry of interior.
Mohamed Fahmy and Baher Mohamed -who were pardoned on Wednesday after more than a year in detention- had been working in Al Jazeera’s English bureau in Cairo during June 30 anti-Morsi protests in 2013. They were arrested and given 10 years in jail on June 2014, then given a lesser verdict of 3 years after prolonged appeal a year later.
The Egyptian government had accused Fahmy and Baher, and their colleague (Australian journalist Peter Greste) of shooting and broadcasting material harmful to Egypt’s internal security.
Fahmy was represented by international rights attorney, Amal Clooney, during his last session last month -in which he received a three year sentence- she later vowed to work towards influencing the Egyptian government into granting Fahmy a well deserved presidential pardon.
Sisi’s reported pardons comes only a day before his trip to New York for the 70th session of the UN General Assembly, and about two months before Egypt’s long anticipated parliamentary elections.
Egypt has been without a parliament for over two years, ever since the overthrowing of the country’s first civilian elected president Mohamed Morsi.
The Egyptian judicial system has been repeatedly accused by Human Rights Watch (HRW) and Amnesty International, of squandering politicised long and unfair prison sentences to the political opposition and members of the Muslim Brotherhood, to which Morsi belongs.
Morsi currently holds a death penalty, and two prison sentences, he appealed all verdicts even though as a deposed elected president he does not acknowledge the legitimacy of the court.
The 100 pardoned young Egyptian political prisoners include activists Sanaa Seif, Yara Sallam and poet Omar Hathiq. Sanaa Seif comes from a politically active and informed family, her late father Seif Abdel Fattah was a famous human rights lawyers, and her brother is fellow vocal activist Alaa Abdel Fattah. Alaa was repeatedly jailed since the beginning of the Arab spring, he was not pardoned with his sister.
According to a statement from the officials, 358 other prisoners were pardoned on Wednesday too, however they are not political prisoners, but rather inmates convicted for various reasons.
Pardoning prisoners on Muslim holidays is a tradition for the Egyptian government, usually taking place twice a year. However, this year the importance of the event has been amplified because of the large number of political prisoners,100, due to be set free, which is unprecedented in Egypt.