Egypt pardons jailed activists, including two prominent rights defenders, official reports say

Egypt's state-run media are saying that President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi has pardoned a group of prisoners, including two prominent rights activists

Via AP news wire
Wednesday 19 July 2023 17:24 BST

Egypt's president has pardoned two prominent rights activists, including one with ties to Italy who was sentenced this week, the country’s state-run news agency reported Wednesday.

Among those pardoned by President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi was rights activist Patrick George Zaki, who was a post-graduate student in Italy and who was sentenced to three years in prison on Tuesday over an opinion article he wrote in 2019, the MENA news agency said.

Zaki's case has echoed in Italy, where many were reminded after the sentencing this week of the tragic fate of Italian student Giulio Regeni who was abducted and killed in Cairo in 2016.

Also pardoned was Mohammed el-Baker, a rights lawyer, who was arrested in September 2019, the agency reported. El-Baker was sentenced to four years in prison late in 2021 over charges of disseminating false news, misuse of social media and joining a terrorist group.

The report said the two were among a group pardoned on Wednesday but did not elaborate who else included. Prisoners who are pardoned in Egypt usually walk free within days.

“We welcome the news of their pardon and call for the immediate release of thousands still detained in Egypt on political grounds,” prominent rights activist Hossam Bahgat wrote on Twitter. Bahgat is the executive director of the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights, which represented Zaki in court.

Zaki, who is Christian, was arrested in February 2020 shortly after landing in Cairo for a short trip home from Italy where he was studying at the University of Bologna. He was released in December 2021 after spending 22 months in pretrial detention but had to remain in Egypt and was not allowed to travel abroad, pending trial.

An Egyptian court sentenced him this week to three years in person over his conviction of “disseminating false news” related to an article of his about alleged discrimination against the Coptic Christian minority in Egypt.

Amnesty International swiftly condemned Egyptian authorities and said that the image of Zaki being dragged out of a courtroom and taken to prison on Tuesday was “terrifying.”

Egypt has pardoned dozens of detainees in the past several months, after its human rights record came under international scrutiny when it hosted the U.N. climate change summit in November.

The government has been relentlessly silencing dissenters and clamping down on independent organizations for years with arrests, detentions, prison sentences and other restrictions. Thousands of political prisoners are estimated by rights groups to remain in custody in Egypt, many without trial.

Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in