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Views divided on Morsi's political prisoner pardon

Political figures, protesters and experts mull over President Morsi's decree, Monday, pardoning those arrested in protests since Egypt's last year 18-day uprising

Ahram Online, Tuesday 9 Oct 2012
Views divided on Morsi
In this image released by the Egyptian Presidency (Photo: AP)
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President Mohamed Morsi's Monday blanket pardon, freeing citizens arrested during protests held since the start of January 25 Revolution until his inauguration, was received with a mixed reaction from political figures, legal experts and activists.   

"This decree is one of the best, the president deserves to be saluted," human rights lawyer Nasser Amin said during an interview with Egyptian privately-owned channel El-Mehwer Monday night. Amin speculated that this might affect over 2000 prisoners.

In an interview with satellite channel Sada El-Balad, lawyer Montasser El-Zayat also welcomed the president's "great decision", however he pointed out that such decree should have been issued earlier "because these are revolutionaries and should not have been imprisoned."

El-Zayat further added that he had hoped that the pardon would have included those detained for political reasons under the regime of Mubarak. The cutoff point stipulated in the presidential document was those arrested during and after 25 January, 2011.

Meanwhile, former minister of communication Hazem Abdel-Azim said via Twitter, "Even if the intentions behind Morsi's decision and its timing are political, I'm still happy with the decree."

According to ex-military prosecutor-general Sayed Hisham speaking to Al-Ahram Arabic language news website, this was a major development in closing the file on prisoners, in particular in ending the practice of trying civilians in military courts, a key demand of activists.

"The issued law is a huge step for freedom and rights and the guarantee that the decree will be implemented is the trust we have in our judiciary and public prosecution," added Hisham.

Muslim Brotherhood spokesperson Mahmoud Ghozlan commented to Al-Ahram, Monday, that Morsi's decision is a proof that the president is on the side of the people.

Ghozlan criticised claims made by some that the decree was issued to counteract a liberal protest planned on 12 October, saying "there are those who are preoccupied with nothing but mistrust and no matter what the president does nothing will ever satisfy them."

One such critic is Haitham Khateeb, a member of the Revolution Youth Union executive bureau, who, speaking to Al-Ahram, said he saw the presidential decree as a "pre-emptive" move ahead of the nationwide protests expected on Friday, which he dubbed "Morsi's judgment day."

One of the main demands of Friday's demonstration, which was called by a coalition of opposition forces including the Constitution Party, April 6 Movement Democratic Front, the Egyptian Social Democratic Party and the Popular Current, was the release of political prisoners.

"This decision is an attempt to distract from the government's inability to accomplish any economical or social demands and its failure in fulfilling the 100-days promises," added Khateeb, who explained that the decree concerns the revolutionary forces but will not solve the daily problems of bread, security or traffic that the average Egyptian citizen suffers.

In an interview with daily newspaper Al-Watan, Hind Nafei, one of the activists hospitalised during clashes with the military police in December by the Cabinet headquarters, said that she rejects Morsi's pardon.

Nafei was arrested during the fighting, which saw the security forces throw rocks and filing cabinets from buildings onto civilians protesting in Qasr Al-Aini Street, in downtown Cairo.

Together with 269 protesters, she is currently facing charges of burning and destroying the Scientific Institute next to the Cabinet headquarters, as well as vandalising the Cabinet building and other public buildings around it. They also face charges of assaulting military and police officials.

"The pardon decision confirms the accusation, I do not need to be pardoned as I am not guilty, I demand my innocence not a pardon," added Nafei.

Activist and member of No to Military Trials for Civilians, Mona Seif, expressed her own reservations via Twitter, explaining that the decree does not include citizens and minors arbitrarily arrested for fighting, road accidents and breaking curfews, who consequently faced military trials

"We will really thank Morsi when legislation is issued putting a stop to civilians facing military courts and those already detained are retried." added Seif.

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