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Egypt's Sisi pardons 203 prisoners in protest-related cases

Hadeer El-Mahdawy , Monday 13 Mar 2017
Sisi
President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi
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Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi issued on Monday an official pardon for 203 prisoners who had received final prison sentences in protest-related cases.

The pardons come upon the recommendation of the committee formed by the president in October 2016 to evaluate the cases of youths imprisoned in politically-related crimes.

This is the second list of pardon recommendations the committee has submitted for presidential review in the past four months.

In November 2016, El-Sisi approved the committee's recommendations to pardon 82 prisoners.

"The prisoners [on the second list] have all received final verdicts in their cases, and are by and large students or individuals with critical health conditions," committee member Karim El-Sakka told Ahram Online.

Those pardoned today include one woman; 114 prisoners aged between 17 and 35; 83 aged between 35 and 55; and six over 55. 

Khaled El-Balshy, a member of the Journalists Syndicate board and the head of its freedoms committee, told Ahram Online that "there are no journalists on this list of pardoned. The syndicate has submitted to the committee a list of about 30 journalists currently in prison."

MP and member of the pardon committee Tarek El-Kholy told Ahram Arabic website that the committee is preparing a third list which will include preventative detention pending investigation, as well as outstanding cases in the first two lists. 

El-Kholy added that most of the prisoners to be released are convicted in protest, publishing, and expression related cases, and that "the committee excludes any Muslim Brotherhood members, whether or not they are involved in violence, as they pose a danger to society."

In late October 2016, El-Sisi formed the committee to review the cases of those imprisoned in politically related crimes and others who meet certain other conditions, such as families who have more than one member in jail.

Article 155 of the Egyptian constitution stipulates that the president has the power to issue a pardon or mitigate a final sentence after consulting with the cabinet.

Many of those considered for pardon have been jailed under the controversial 2013 protest law, which has been widely criticised by local and international rights groups.

The protest law requires those who want to organise peaceful demonstartions obtain a prior permit from the ministry of interior, and mandates fines and jail sentences of one to three years for violators.

Thousands have been detained for violating the protest law since it was issued in November 2013.

Egypt's 2014 constitution guarantees citizens the right to peaceful protest.

In December 2016, Egypt’s Supreme Constitutional Court issued a ruling deeming unconstitutional Article 10 of the protest law, which permits the country’s interior minister to bar protests without court approval.

The ruling also stated that those looking to organise street protests should only be obliged to notify authorities, not obtain prior approval.

In January, the parliament’s Legislative and Constitutional Affairs Committee approved a bill to amend the protest law in accordance with the Supreme Constitutional Court verdict.

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