The General Prosecution announced the release of 500 detainees arrested in the wake of anti-government protests on 20 September. The announcement followed the release of 200 detainees last week.
Sections of the media, MPs and NGOs had joined in growing calls for the release of detainees who had no connection with terrorist groups.
On 20 September small protests were dispersed by security forces in several governorates, including Cairo, Alexandria and Suez. The protests were encouraged by a Brotherhood-led campaign and mass social media posts calling on Egyptians to take to the streets “to end the Al-Sisi regime”.
Following the protests Prosecutor-General Hamada Al-Sawi issued a statement saying that of the hundreds of demonstrators arrested, some were members of the banned Muslim Brotherhood while others had taken to the streets to protest against deteriorating economic conditions.
“Extensive investigations into the incitement of demonstrations were undertaken to uncover the truth of the protesters’ affiliations. The General Prosecution questioned no more than 1,000 people over their participation in the demonstrations, in the presence of their lawyers,” the prosecution statement said.
Earlier this month the Egyptian National Council for Human Rights (NCHR) issued a statement criticising Egypt’s human rights record following the 20 September protests.
“Though the council appreciates the threats posed by the war on terrorism, it condemns the arbitrary security measures taken against some citizens,” the statement said.
The NCHR said citizens have been arrested on streets and in city squares without legal justification and without being informed of the charges against them, and were prevented from communicating with their relatives and family members in violation of rights guaranteed by the constitution and the law.
After the first release of detainees in late September, the NCHR expressed its satisfaction with “the release of a number of people who were arrested, and now expects all those who have not been involved in violence or incitement to be freed”.
A security source told the media that the NCHR relied on information from unreliable sources that seek to create a state of confusion among the public. The source also insisted all detentions were in accordance with the law.
TV presenter Amr Adib praised the prosecution’s decision to release hundreds of detainees, adding that recently arrested politicians should also be freed.
“There is a need to open a new page and release partisans and politicians,” said Adib. He name-checked the former head of the Dostour Party Khaled Dawoud and political analysts Hassan Nafaa and Hazem Hosni, all of whom were arrested two weeks ago.
Dawoud, Nafaa and Hosni face charges that include supporting the objectives of a terrorist group. They remain in jail pending investigations.
*A version of this article appears in print in the 17 October, 2019 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly.