General Coordinator of the Egyptian National Dialogue and Head of the Journalists Syndicate Diaa Rashwan. File photo
The pardons will pave the way for the National Dialogue to take place in a “comfortable atmosphere,” Rashwan — who is also the head of the Journalists Syndicate — said during his TV programme New Egypt on ETC channel.
“They would also make everyone feel that the state has a genuine desire to expand the public sphere.”.
Rashwan’s remarks came after El-Sisi issued on Friday a presidential pardon for a number of political activists who had received final jail sentences in various cases, including journalist and political activist Hisham Fouad.
Other people that were pardoned include researcher Ahmed Samir, actor Tarek El-Nahry, Qassem Ahmed, Abdel-Raouf Khattab, Tarek Seddik, and Khaled Saber.
Fouad was sentenced to four years in prison on charges of spreading false news on social media along with other convicts last November in a case referred to by media outlets as the ‘Hope Cell Plot.’
After the release of Fouad, seven members of the Journalists Syndicate remain behind bars, while imprisoned journalists who are not syndicate members are hovering around the same number, Rashwan noted.
The Journalists Syndicate welcomed in a Friday statement El-Sisi’s decision to pardon Fouad, which has raised the number of journalists pardoned by the president since April to five.
On 26 April, El-Sisi called for a National Dialogue between national forces and reactivated the Presidential Pardon Committee during the annual Egyptian Family Iftar Banquet.
Since then, the president has urged all political forces to participate, stressing however, that the terrorist-designated Muslim Brotherhood group would not be invited.
Since the beginning of July, the National Dialogue’s Board of Trustees has held two organisational meetings to pave the way for conducting the dialogue, with the third meeting scheduled for Saturday 30 July.
Rashwan has repeatedly affirmed that the goal of the dialogue is to reach “common grounds” among participants, including political, partisan, and syndicate forces.
The previous Board of Trustee meetings have agreed on bylaws as well as the dialogue’s 25-article code of conduct and ethics and the formation of sub-committees under the dialogue’s political track.
Furthermore, Saturday’s meeting is set to focus on the formation of sub-committees under the economic and social tracks.
Members of the Board of Trustees have demanded the release of prisoners of conscience as a “fundamental” prerequisite to starting the dialogue.
Since April, El-Sisi has pardoned a number of high-profile political activists who had received final sentences in various cases, such as Hossam Mones and Yahia Abdel-Hady.
The names of other prominent imprisoned activists Alaa Abdel-Fattah, Ahmed Douma, and Zeyad El-Eleimy are also included in the presidential pardon lists, Member of the Presidential Pardon Committee and prominent lawyer Tarek El-Awady told the media in mid-July.
The lists also include a number of Qatari Al-Jazeera Channel crew members, Sixth of April Youth Movement members, and Hope Cell convicts, according to El-Awady.
Additionally, El-Sisi pardoned thousands of prisoners over the past few years on different national and religious occasions, including 727 inmates on the 70th anniversary of the 23 July 1952 Revolution and 1,270 prisoners on the occasion of Eid El-Adha in early July.