A new list of presidential pardons will focus on prisoners of conscience, journalists, those with severe health conditions, detainees over 80 years old and those who were not involved in violent acts, according to Egypt’s National Council for Human Rights (NCHR). Critics, however, point to the selective manner in which prisoners have been chosen for release in the past.
The list is to be issued within a week of the formation of the committee proposing the names, member of the NCHR George Ishak told Mada Masr.
President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi issued a decree pardoning a list of 82 pre-trial prisoners and those with final verdicts on Thursday last week. The list included researcher Islam al-Beheiry, who was detained on blasphemy charges.
“We need more names like this on the next list,” said Ishaq.
Although the news of forthcoming prisoner releases was met with joy from family members and rights workers, the selective manner in which certain detainees were chosen and others were not has also been highlighted. Several detainees on the list were due for imminent release anyway: Beheiry’s sentence was due to end in a few weeks, Mohamed Ali Salah’s sentence was set to end on December 27, and Yosra al-Khatib’s sentence ended 12 days ago.
There were also several high-profile detainees, on similar charges to those up for release, who were not included on the lists. Although Beheiry was released, for example, Ahmed Naji, who was jailed on similar charges for longer, was not. The previous lists also failed to include Mahmoud Abu Zeid (Shawkan), who has been held in pretrial detention for more than three years.
The criteria for prioritizing prisoner releases is not enough to ensure a fair process, according to member of the Freedom for the Brave campaign Khaled Abdel Hamid. For example, four prisoners from the Suhoor detainees case, arrested in Beheira during Ramadan, were released and the remaining seven weren’t. Also, all the young men arrested in the Mohamed Mahmoud anniversary case were released, except Jamila Serry Eddin, despite a prior announcement that priority would be given to female prisoners, Abdel Hamid told Mada Masr. Abdel Rahman Sayed (also known as Koji), detained in the Shura Council case, was on the list, while prisoner Abdel Rahman Tarek, accused in the same case, was not released, he added.
The committee explained this is due to some families submitting pardons and others not. However, this was called into question by the inclusion of one brother detained in relation to October 6 events and not the other.
“What Hawfy has done is not right. I insist specific names should not be mentioned, because this diminishes justice and objectivity,” Ishaq said, criticizing member of the committee Nashwa al-Hawfy for announcing her reluctance to consider Alaa Abd El Fattah, Ahmed Douma and Ahmed Maher for pardons on Facebook, as she claimed they were involved in violent acts.
The NCHR has so far received 1,800 names to consider for release, said Ishaq, adding that the council’s doors are open everyday from 8 am to 3 pm, except Fridays, for any additional requests.
Head of the committee, Osama al-Ghazaly Harb, is to notify Ishaq of the official date for publishing the new list.
“No matter how many prisoners we release, thousands remain in prison. But, we will not pass up any chance to achieve justice, even for one person,” said Abdel Hamid.