Egypt's President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi has pardoned 82 prisoners, including former TV host and Islamic studies researcher Islam El-Behery and MD Ahmed Saeid , official news agency MENA reported on Thursday.
According to the media office of the Egyptian presidency, most of those pardoned are university students.
El-Behery was sentenced in December 2015 to one year in prison after he was convicted of “contempt of religion” in connection with the content of his now-suspended TV programme.
Ahmed Saeid, who at one point lived and worked in Germany, was convicted in November 2015 of breaking the Protest Law and received a two-year sentence. Activists have been campaigning for months for his release.
The presidential statement said this was the first batch of prisoners to be pardoned in accordance with Article 155 of the constitution.
Article 155 stipulates that the president may issue a pardon or mitigate a sentence after consulting with the cabinet.
The pardons come based on the recommendations of the committee formed by the presidency in late October to review the cases of youths imprisoned for “politically related crimes," as well as other humanitarian cases.
Last week, the presidency expanded the scope of the committee's review task to include prisoners who have received final verdicts in crimes involving protest, publishing and speech.
The five-member committee comprises prominent politician and member of the Free Egyptians Party Osama El-Ghazaly Harb, writer Nashwa El-Houfy, MP Tarek El-Kholy, National Council for Human Rights member Mohamed Abdel-Aziz and former member of President El-Sisi's electoral campaign, Karim El-Sakka.
The committee has said it is coordinating its work with the semi-governmental National Council for Human Rights and parliament's human rights committee, as well as political parties, unions, rights organisations and the families of prisoners.
The committee also said it is coordinating with the interior and justice ministries on preparing lists for pardons.
Photographer Mohamed Ali Salah, who was arrested in 2013 while covering a protest in Nasr city for "Al-Shaab Al-Gadid" newspaper, is among those pardoned.
Salah was sentenced in late 2013 to three years in jail on charges of breaking the Protest Law.
According to Khaled Al-Balshy, the head of Freedoms committee in journalists syndicate, Salah's prison term was set to end in one month and ten days.
Salah is the only journalist on the list of those pardoned today.
In 2015, the president pardoned 100 prisoners, including dozens who were convicted of violating the controversial protest law during the 2013 Shura Council demonstrations and the 2014 Ittihadiya demonstrations.
Ahram Online obtained a copy of the list of pardoned prisoners from a member of the committee.