Egypt released 2,376 prisoners, including 627 debt defaulters, by a presidential pardon decree on Tuesday, the first day of the Eid al-Adha holiday, according to a statement by the Egyptian Ministry of Interior.
The decree comes weeks after President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi launched the initiative "Prisons Without Debt Defaulters", which aims to help some of the many people - disproportianetly women - who have been imprisoned because they failed to repay loans borrowed for family expenses.
According to Article 376 of the penal code, individuals who default on loan payments may face up to three years in jail.
The law states that debt defaulters could be released from prison if their debts are paid for them or if the creditor forgives the debt.
The Tahya Misr Fund, a fund established by President El-Sisi in 2014 to support social and economic projects, along with other civil society organizations have settled the debt for the released prisoners, according to the statement.
"In accordance with Decree No. 391/2018 and in celebration of Eid al-Adha, the prisons sector [at the ministry] formed committees to examine the files of inmates in order to determine who is eligible for a pardon," the Ministry of Interior statement read.
The high commission of the prisons sector concluded that 1,088 inmates were eligible for a full pardon.
The commission also reviewed the cases of 661 other prisoners who are eligible for conditional release.
Article 155 of the Egyptian constitution stipulates that the president has the power to issue pardons or to mitigate final sentences after consulting with his cabinet.
The last pardon was issued in July 2018 ahead of Eid Al-Fitr, when El-Sisi issued a decree pardoning 712 prisoners.