Egypt: Prisoner pardons a relief but little more than token gesture
Today’s presidential decree granting pardons to 100 people including Al Jazeera journalists Mohamed Fahmy and Baher Mohamed and several unlawfully imprisoned activists including Sana Seif and Yara Sallam is welcome news, but represents little more than a token gesture, said Amnesty International.
The organization said the pardons, made ahead of the Muslim Eid holiday, should be followed by further action to seriously address the appalling human rights record under President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, including the intolerance of peaceful dissent and criticism of the authorities.
“While these pardons come as a great relief, it is ludicrous that some of these people were ever behind bars in the first place. Hundreds remain behind bars for protesting or because of their journalistic work. All those jailed for peacefully exercising their right to freedom of expression, assembly and association or because of their journalistic or human rights work must have their convictions quashed and be immediately and unconditionally released,” said Said Boumedouha, Deputy Middle East and North Africa Director at Amnesty International.
“Those pardoned today include only a tiny fraction of the hundreds of people across the country who have been arbitrarily arrested, and unlawfully detained. These pardons will be little more than an empty gesture if they are not followed up by further releases of those arbitrarily detained, respect for the right to freedom of expression and assembly, and accountability for perpetrators of gross human rights violations.”
The list of those pardoned includes prominent human rights activists jailed simply for daring to defy Egypt’s repressive protest law Sana Seif and Omra Hazek. It also includes the women’s rights defender Yara Sallam.
Others named in the pardon are the Al Jazeera journalists Mohamed Fahmy and Baher Mohamed, who were recently convicted of ‘spreading false news’ along with their released colleague, Peter Greste, after being arrested in 2013.
The list of names, however, did not include well-known bloggers Alaa Abdel Fattah and Ahmed Douma, the 6th April youth activists Ahmed Maher and Mohamed Adel or human rights defender Mahienoor Elmasry. Also missing from the list are the prisoners of conscience - photojournalist Mahmoud Abu Zeid known as Shawkan, and detained student Mahmoud Hussein.
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