Salafist presidential hopeful vows to release political prisoners

Ahram Online, Wednesday 29 Feb 2012

Hazem Salah Abou-Ismail promises to release political prisoners, halt practice of trying civilians in military courts should he win 23 May presidential elections

Hazem Salah Abu Ismail
Hazem Salah Abu Ismail, a Salafist leader planning to run for presidency (Photo: Reuters)

Salafist leader and presidential hopeful Hazem Salah Abou-Ismail has announced that, should he become Egypt's next president, he would immediately order the release of all political prisoners and end the longstanding practice of referring civilians to military trials.

Abou-Ismail made the statement during a visit to the Cairo headquarters of the Building and Development Party (BDP), Al-Gamaa Al-Islamiya's political arm.

The BDP is currently holding meetings with would-be presidential contenders so as to familiarise itself with their respective policies and political objectives.

During his visit, Abou-Ismail reportedly became emotional when discussions turned to Al-Gamaa's "persecution" during the Mubarak era. He asserted that Al-Gamaa members had been grossly mistreated under the former regime, stressing that no faction should ever be subject to such oppression.

Al-Gamaa is known for having carried out violent operations against government targets in the 1980s and 1990s. It is most famous for its alleged role in the assassination of Egyptian president Anwar El-Sadat in 1981 during ceremonies marking the anniversary of Egypt's 1973 military victory over Israel.

The group was also responsible for a spate of bombings that spanned two decades.

Al-Gamaa Al-Islamiya was eventually crushed by Egyptian security forces in the late 1990s, after which group leaders struck a deal with the government in which they vowed to renounce all violent activities. 

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