Egypt frees ex-politician in latest prisoner pardon


CAIRO (AP) — Egyptian authorities announced Monday the release of a former parliamentarian and lawyer from prison, the latest in a string of high-profile detainees to walk free amid heightened international attention over his human rights record.

Tarik el-Awady, a member of Egypt’s presidential pardon committee, was the first to announce the release of lawyer Ziyad el-Elaimy early Thursday. Later, el-Awady and other activists shared videos of the released lawyer hugging family and friends on social media.

Egypt has pardoned dozens of prisoners in recent months and its human rights record is under increasing international scrutiny ahead of the country’s hosting of the UN climate change summit, which begins on November 6. For nearly a decade, President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi’s government has ruthlessly crushed political dissent and clamped down on independent organizations through mass arrests, prison sentences and other restrictions.

El-Elaimy, a founding member of the Egyptian Social Democratic Party and an eminent activist during the country’s 2011 uprising, was arrested along with seven others in 2019. He was later charged with conspiring to commit crimes with an illegal group, a reference to Muslims. . Brotherhood, which the el-Sissi government has banned as a terrorist organization.

The arrest of the eight men came shortly after they met with several opposition political parties and lawmakers in a bid to come up with a plan to run in the 2020 parliamentary elections. The group has since been dubbed “The Alliance”. of Hope” by his supporters, who accuse the authorities of trying to thwart a political threat. Hossam Monis, one of the main members of the group, was released in April.

Egypt has tried to rectify its international image over the past year. El-Sissi’s government has also set out a new “strategy” to improve human rights conditions and announced a national dialogue including opposition voices to start later this year. But skepticism remains about whether these new initiatives will translate into reality. Amnesty International recently described the strategy as a “brilliant cover-up” used to negotiate favors with foreign governments and financial institutions.

Human rights groups estimate that thousands of political prisoners remain in custody in Egypt, many without trial. The country is among the worst jailers of journalists in the world, along with Turkey and China, according to 2021 data produced by the US-based Committee to Protect Journalists.

Many of the leading activists involved in Egypt’s 2011 popular uprising remain behind bars, most of whom were charged under a draconian 2013 law that effectively bans all street protests.

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