Once again, Sisi excludes political detainees from presidential pardon

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Political and media security sources revealed that General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi excluded detainees and prisoners in cases of a political nature from the expected political amnesty on the occasion of January 25. On the other hand, human rights sources revealed that there are still attempts to release some political detainees, including activists and journalists, who are imprisoned on various cases. The sources said that political and union mediation is still underway to release some detainees, especially those detained from civil and political parties.

In the same context, the families of some political detainees said that the administrations of several different prisons in Egypt told them during the current period of exceptional visits on the occasion of the anniversary of the January 25, 2011 revolution, and Police Day, that al-Sisi would not issue a decision to pardon sentenced political prisoners. These sources confirmed that the only decision that will be implemented is to pardon the remainder of the sentence for some categories of prisoners and those entitled to police release for half or two-thirds of the period, provided that this includes only criminal prisoners.

Over the past several weeks, human rights sources pinned their hopes on an anticipated presidential pardon that would include large numbers of political detainees on the occasion of January 25. Security and human rights sources told al-Arabi al-Jadeed that this information disappointed the prisoners and their families and caused anger, especially in the high-security prisons that contain the largest number of prisoners sentenced in cases of a political nature.

Many political detainees have been serving lengthy prison terms since 2013 and 2014. However, many detainees in similar cases from those years were released, either because their sentences were reduced in the Court of Cassation or because they benefited from previous amnesty decisions because most of these cases were tried in regular criminal courts. However, most of these detainees from those years were referred to military trials as part of the Egyptian regime’s expansion in referring political detainees to the military judiciary after the military coup on 3 July 2013.

Rights activists point out that the state of anger is exacerbated by the strict measures imposed by the Egyptian authorities on visits to the families of political detainees, and the refusal to allow food, personal items and money to enter, under the pretext of confronting the current outbreak of the coronavirus. During this period, the Ministry of Interior imposed new measures under the pretext of reducing friction between inmates and their families. Still, they prevented visits to a large number of them due to families’ obligation to pre-register and give prisons the power to choose visitors.

The political detainees’ families condemn the release of those convicted of criminal cases such as murder, attempted murder, drug, and human trafficking, running prostitution networks, corruption and fraud, and not releasing political detainees who did not do any of this. It is expected that the beneficiaries of this amnesty will be released before the end of this week, after the end of the current security alert in the country on the occasion of the anniversary of the January 25 revolution.

In the face of this state of anger, human rights sources said that parallel attempts to release some political detainees, including activists and journalists, who are imprisoned for various political cases, “are still underway through political and union mediation.” And those sources indicate that there are differences between personalities in the presidency, general intelligence, and national security.

This dispute revolves around the timing of the release of some detained political figures. A team within the Egyptian regime believes that releasing activists before the January 25 revolution’s anniversary would have led to an undesirable effect on social media. That team indicated that the system is working in a coordinated, unified, and escalating manner to forget the revolution’s memory by preventing any reference to it by journalists or on television and amplifying the celebration of Police Day.

That team believes that the exit of the agreed personalities will be in the form of release decisions from the public prosecution, in continuation of the trend that began in the past two weeks, with the release of about 50 detainees concerning the cases of the events of September 2019 and January 2020, among them left-wing activists. However, in contrast to that team, others believe that many detainees should be released, as the regime is keen to improve its image in Western capitals, which have raised the pressure to release political detainees.

The Egyptian regime’s image worsened progressively, especially after Egypt closed the case of the Italian student Giulio Regeni, and the judicial cooperation between Cairo and Rome reached a dead end. The regime aspires to send positive messages to the new American Democratic administration headed by Joe Biden, after direct and indirect contacts made by the regime’s apparatus during the past two months with circles in the new US administration.