Interior Ministry headquarters (Reuters)
This comes a few days after reports claimed that security forces arrested three of the Nile island inhabitants earlier this week, making the number of those arrested on account of this case 35 detainees.
The pardon committee, reactivated by President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi last April, thanked the Ministry of Interior for its efforts to contain the situation in the island which is located within the boundaries of Giza governorate.
The committee added that the ministry’s efforts were crowned with success after the citizens arrested were released after finalising the legal procedures.
“This positive approach is one of the most prominent outcomes of the general positive atmosphere that accompanied the call for the National Dialogue,” the committee said.
The National Dialogue was also launched by El-Sisi in April as a way to open a dialogue between the government and the society on important political, social and economic issues.
Since the call for the national dialogue, Egypt has released around 1,200 pretrial detainees and pardoned several people, including prominent figures, according to officials.
The Warraq island case dates back to 2017 when clashes erupted between security forces and the island dwellers after the authorities attempted to demolish what they said were illegal homes that had been built on state property. Demolishing these homes had been part of the government’s plan to develop the 1,295-feddan Nile island.
In December 2020, a Cairo criminal sentenced in absentia 30 defendants to 15 years in prison over clashes between police and residents of the island.
In January 2021, the Supreme State Security Court postponed to April the retrial of 19 defendants who had received tough prison sentences in absentia late in 2020.
The court also handed a life sentence to one defendant in absentia, and sentenced four present defendants to five years in prison.
The defendants were charged by the prosecution with illegal assembly and the injuring of 33 policemen during the clashes, which were the result of a government campaign to remove illegal buildings and encroachments on state property on the banks of the Nile.
The clashes on the island also resulted in the death of a local resident and the injury of dozens of others.
The prosecution also charged the defendants with encroaching on public and private property, shows of force, preventing public officials from carrying out their duties, thuggery and blocking roads.
In 2020, the government started development work on the 1,295 feddan-island, which is home to 90,000 people as part of plans to develop the island.
The plan was rejected by many residents in the island who feared that they would be forcibly evicted from their homes.
The government gave the residents a number of options. First, they can be financially compensated in exchange for leaving the island. Second, they can be given alternative housing outside the island. Finally, if they so wish, they can settle back in the island once the development plans were completed.
In December, Egypt's Prime Minister Mostafa Madbouly urged expediting measures to pay compensations to residents of the island.
The government has asserted that residents would not be forcibly evicted and all relocated residents would be compensated properly.
The government has bought 888 feddans from island residents, accounting for nearly 71 percent of the island’s total area, at a cost of EGP 5 billion, according to government figures.