Pardoned young prisoners allowed to walk free: State TV

Ahram Online , Friday 18 Nov 2016

Tora Prison (Photo: Reuters)

Dozens of young prisoners pardoned by President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi were released early on Friday, Egypt's state TV reported.

El-Sisi pardoned on Thursday 82 prisoners, including many university students jailed for protesting and a former TV host convicted of blasphemy.

State TV said 65 of those pardoned were released from Tora Prison, a sprawling complex in southern Cairo.

The names of those pardoned were compiled by a committee tasked by El-Sisi in October with examining the cases of young prisoners jailed over protesting or charges related to freedom of expression.

On the same occasion, during an October youth conference, the president promised to amend the controversial protest law under which hundreds of young people have been jailed and which rights groups have condemned as unconstitutional.

On Friday, the presidential decree pardoning the 82 prisoners, decree number 515 of 2016, was published in the coutnry's official gazette. 

Among those released was Islam El-Beheiry, a TV presenter and Islamic studies researcher who had been serving a one-year sentence for "defaming religious symbols" since December last year.

During his show, he questioned the credibility of some of the sources of Prophet Muhammad's sayings, a prime source of Islamic jurisprudence, while discussing religious texts.

The pardons have been criticised by some activists for choosing detainees such as El-Beheiry who only had a matter of weeks to go on his sentence, instead of those facing longer prison terms.

Thursday's pardons were the first in a series, as a second list of prisoners are expected to be pardoned before the end of the year.

Members of the committee tasked with compiling the lists have said members of the now-banned Muslim Brotherhood group of ousted president Mohamed Morsi would not be pardoned.

Local daily Al-Masry Al-Youm reported on Friday that the second list of names of detainees to be pardoned had been prepared by the committee and is expected to be issued next week. 

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