Young female activists Sanaa Seif and Yara Sallam were among the young political detainees that were released Wednesday evening from prison, based on a customary presidential pardon granted for 100 prisoners on the occasion of Eid Al-Adha.
Young Egyptians and family members of the pardoned, as well as journalists and human rights advocates, rejoiced and welcomed the former detainees as they were coming out of the Borg El-Arab, Damanhour, Tora and Qanater prisons.
Those imprisoned and released were convicted in several cases, including the Itihadiya protest case under the controversial Protest Law of 2013.
Even though President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi had made promises on releasing detainees as early as December 2014, none of them came into effect before Wednesday, ahead of his trip to New York City, in which he is to speak at the 70th session of the UN General Assembly, and would be asked about the situation of human rights in Egypt.
The initial presidential statement regarding the pardon included Al Jazeera journalists Mohamed Fahmy, Baher Mohamed, and a number of activists. Human rights lawyers rushed to the various prisons to learn the rest of the names on the pardons list and follow up on the procedures of their release.
Itihadeya case: Seif and Sallam released
According to the Egyptian Front to Defend Protesters, Moamen Mohamed is the only prisoner who was not released in the Itihadiya protest case, as his detention is also for a different trial case. The case included 22 defendants sentenced to two years in jail in December 2014, among which were Sanaa Seif and Yara Sallam.
They had organised a protest in front of the Itihadiya Presidential Palace, calling against the Protest Law and demanding the release of youth detained under it.
Shura Council case: Alaa Abdel Fattah not pardoned
Seif’s brother and notorious activist Alaa Abdel Fattah was not included in the presidential pardon, even though several co-defendants were released in the same case, known as the “Shura Council case”, in which he received a heavy five-year prison term.
Sanaa Seif is to visit her brother in Tora prison on Thursday, as exceptional visits are granted to prisoners during official holidays.
Furthermore, defendant Ahmed Abdel Rahman, who had received the same sentence as Abdel Fattah, was also excluded from the pardon. The other 18 defendants in the case, who’ve received sentences between three and five years, were pardoned. They include Hamada Noubi, Hani El-Gamal, Peter Youssef, among others.
Khaled Said protest case: Pardon excludes Mahienour El-Massry
The case included nine people and was for violating the Protest Law, following protests in December 2013 in solidarity with the pre-revolutionary victim of police brutality, Khaled Said.
Alexandrian poet Omar Hazek was pardoned, along with Islam Hussanein, who was arrested while passing by the protest, and was sentenced to two years and an EGP 50,000 fine. It was reported that Hassanein’s father’s illness developed when he was sentenced until he passed away.
Meanwhile, Alexandrian lawyer and activist Mahienour El-Massry was exempted from charges in the case and later released. However, El-Massry was re-detained last May and is now serving another prison term for El-Raml police station case, as well as Loay El-Kahwagy and journalist Youssef Shaaban. The court sentenced them to one year and three months on charges of assaulting police officers.
On a similar note, lawyers and groups that support detainees, such as Freedom to the Brave, have reported gaps between the presidential pardon and its implementation, accusing prison authorities and the Ministry of Interior of intransigence towards a number of prisoners.
The list of the pardoned detainees is yet to be finalised with updates on the status of each detainee. Furthermore, political activists celebrated on social media the release of their colleagues, but said they will push for the release of the other detainees.