A presidential pardon for jailed activists and journalists was expected to coincide with the fourth anniversary of the 25 January Revolution but seems forgotten, amid a security crackdown during Sunday’s protests.
President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi had said on 19 January that “a list is being prepared to release a number of prisoners who were not involved in incidents that harmed the country”, according to state news agency MENA.
Al-Sisi delivered his statements to a media delegation accompanying him during his visit to the United Arab Emirates. He also said, “we will go with a procedure that includes all journalists and imprisoned, and we will take a decision that calms down the situation in Egypt and indicates that the youth are not targeted,” according to Al-Shorouk newspaper.
Al-Sisi issued a decree earlier in January to pardon some prisoners on the fourth anniversary of the 25 January Revolution, according to a presidential statement released on 13 January.
“Al-Sisi will not free his foes,” said human rights lawyer Gamal Eid when asked about the announced pardon. The Arab Network for Human Rights Information (ANHRI) director meanwhile said that 100 students were released by the general prosecution, but those were on pre-trial detention pending investigations and not sentenced.
The Ministry of Interior said that a committee formed a list of 584 prisoners who match the president’s decree and added that they have been released, according to a 22 January statement.
“All that came out are statements but nothing happened in reality,” said rights lawyer Tarek Al-Awady on Monday. However, he also said “maybe the government is waiting for tensions to cool down”.
Sunday’s mass protests to mark the revolution anniversary saw 18 people killed, according to Egyptian officials, during clashes between protesters and security forces. Human Rights Watch claimed at least 20 had been killed and condemned the “excessive force” used by the authorities, according to a new report.
Eid believes that keeping journalists and activists imprisoned sends negative signals “even those who are around Al-Sisi are disappointed”, he said. He added: “We were hoping for any sign but he didn’t disappoint our view of him as a dictator.”