Patrick Zaki and Mohamed El-Baqer. Al-Ahram
On Tuesday, Mansoura High Emergency State Security Court sentenced Patrick George Zaki, a well-known human rights researcher, to three years in prison on charges of spreading false news inside and outside the country.
Meanwhile, El-Baqer, a prominent human rights lawyer, has been serving a four-year sentence after he was convicted in December 2021, also by an emergency state security court, of joining a terrorist group and spreading false news inside and outside the country.
Zaki was held under pretrial detention in February 2020 but was released in December 2021.
El-Baqer was held under pretrial detention in September 2019 before he was sentenced in he stood trial and received a final verdict.
In November 2022, courts upheld a previous ruling to place El-Baqer and others on the country’s terrorism list for a five-year period in the case 1781/2019.
The verdicts of high emergency state security courts cannot be appealed.
However, the president has the prerogative to not ratify these verdicts or grant pardons to those convicted by these emergency courts, per the country's constitution.
Since April 2022, when the government started gearing up to convene a national dialogue, President El-Sisi issued a number of pardons for high-profile activists who were serving sentences after receiving final verdicts in a number of cases.
Moreover, the Public Prosecution also released hundreds of political activists who were in pretrial detentions.
The Presidential Pardon Committee explained in statements on Wednesday that the pardons came in response to requests made by the Board of Trustees of the National Dialogue and other political forces.
Meanwhile, the national dialogue's board of trustees thanked the president for the new pardons, calling for more pardons, which would "confirm the state is moving towards the new republic with steady and solid steps."
In a statement, the board of trustees said these pardons decision "reaffirms the President's keenness to provide all positive atmosphere for the success of the national dialogue … as a means for consensus on the priorities of national action at the current stage and to gain more common spaces among the people of the country to build a promising and better future."
Meanwhile, the Coordination Committee of Party's Youth Leaders and Politicians (CPYP) welcomed the president's decision, saying it "confirms the president's keenness on the unity of the Egyptian ranks, without regard to any ideological or political differences."
The CPYP described the pardon decree as a message that supports opening the channels of "honest and effective" dialogue with all political forces.
The National Council for Human Rights (NCHR) hailed the new pardons "as a confirmation of the political leadership's determination to move forward with the advancement of the human rights situation in the country."
In a statement, the NCHR said these pardons reflect the determination to overcome many challenges stipulated in the National Human Rights Strategy -- a set of government commitments launched in September 2021 to improve elements of socio-economic, cultural, and political rights in the country over the next five years,
These challenges include the pretrial detention issue and preparing the Egyptian society for more political openness and deepening freedom of opinion and expression and a culture of human rights, added the NCHR.
"The successive releases of activists, be those serving sentences or in pretrial detention, confirms that there is a real will to open a new page with all political forces … [and] open the way for a boom in human rights work based on respect for freedom of opinion and all civil and political rights of all citizens."