Egypt's official gazette publishes classification of prisoners pardoned by Sisi

Ahram Online , Wednesday 15 Mar 2017

A released prisoner hugs a member of his family after Egyptian President El-Sisi issued a pardon for 203 youths jailed for taking part in demonstrations, in front of the main gate of Tora Prison in Tora (Photo: Reuters)

Egypt's official gazette published on Wednesday a detailed account of President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi's decision to pardon 203 prisoners, which included for the first time a classification for each prisoner.

El-Sisi issued on Monday an official pardon for the prisoners, who had received final prison sentences in protest-related cases.

The decision published in the gazette classified those pardoned into two sections: sympathisers and inciters. 

However, the list did not clarify which group(s) the prisoners were convicted of sympathising with or joining.

"The prisoners [on the second list] have all received final verdicts in their cases, and are by and large students or individuals with critical health conditions," committee member Karim El-Sakka — who sits on the president-mandated committee to review politically-related cases for pardon— told Ahram Online on Monday.

Those pardoned included one woman, 114 prisoners aged 17 to 35, 83 aged 35 to 55, and six over 55.

The charges of which they were convicted ranged from protesting and rioting to joining a group or taking part in violent incidents.

Though the list did not clarify the section "sympathiser," the term is commonly used to describe supporters of the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood organisation. 

In November 2013, an Egyptian court declared the Muslim Brotherhood a terrorist organisation, following a spate of deadly incidents in the wake of a popular uprising against former Islamist president Mohamed Morsi, who was ousted from his position in July 2013.

Following the pardoning Monday, committee member and MP Tarek El-Khouly told parliamentary reporters that prior to submitting this list of pardon recommendations to the presidency, the committee eliminated "any person who belongs to the Brotherhood, whether or not he was involved in violence, given their danger to society, and until ideological revisions take place."

El-Khouly said that a third list of prisoners is being prepared, which would include cases of prisoners who have not received convictions and others backlogged from the first and second lists.

This round of pardons is the second El-Sisi has decreed under the recommendations of the committee, which he formed in October 2016 to evaluate the cases of young people imprisoned for politically related crimes.

In November 2016, El-Sisi approved the committee's recommendations to pardon 82 prisoners.

Article 155 of the Egyptian constitution stipulates that the president has the power to issue a pardon or mitigate a final sentence after consulting with the cabinet.

Many of those pardoned have been jailed under the controversial 2013 protest law, which has been widely criticised by local and international rights groups.

Egypt's 2014 constitution guarantees citizens the right to peaceful protest.

In December 2016, Egypt’s Supreme Constitutional Court issued a ruling deeming Article 10 of the protest law unconstitutional.

Article 10 permits the country’s interior minister to bar protests without court approval.

The ruling also stated that those seeking to organise street protests should only be obliged to notify authorities, not obtain prior approval.

In January, the parliament’s Legislative and Constitutional Affairs Committee approved a bill to amend the protest law in accordance with the court's verdict.

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