Egypt frees 41 political prisoners: negotiator

Egypt released 41 political prisoners from pre-trial detention on Sunday, according to a politician turned negotiationrightin a country where many more remain behind bars.

“Forty-one of those held in pre-trial detention Political and (related to) freedom of thought and expression accusations have been released, Mohamed al-Sadat said.

Long a fixture on the Egyptian political scene, Sadat is the grandson of former President Anwar al-Sadat and has recently emerged as an unofficial negotiator for political prisoners.

Human rights groups estimate that tens of thousands of such prisoners are being held in Egypt.

Among those released on Sunday, eminent lawyer Khaled Ali told AFP, were journalist Mohamed Salah, researcher Abdo Fayed and activists Walid Shawky, Haitham al-Banna and Hassan al Barbary.

Activist Radwa Mohamed, who was arrested in 2019 for criticizing the regime amid rare protests calling for the removal of Sisi from office, which was another of those released, according to her lawyer Nabeeh al-Ganadi .

All six were charged with “belonging to a terrorist organization and spreading false news” – an accusation often leveled against dissidents in Egypt.

Shawky had started a hunger strike in February. Both he and Salah were previously released before new charges were leveled against them – a common tactic used to circumvent Egypt’s maximum two-year pre-trial detention period, according to human rights groups.

More detainees will be released, Sadat suggested, as “legal and humanitarian reviews” will most likely leave some eligible for “presidential graces” that are conventionally issued around Eid, set for the first week of May.

In an interview with AFP, Egyptian-Palestinian activist Ramy Shaath, who was released in January, detailed the brutal conditions and treatment in prison, describing the detainees as “rotting in hell”.

This week, four social media comedians were arrested on suspicion of terrorism and spreading fake news for an online song that mocked the authorities’ inability to curb rampant inflation.

In November, Human Rights Watch accused the international community of “rewarding the repressive government” by selecting the North African country to host the next climate summit: COP27, scheduled for November.

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