Egypt government frees 41 prisoners ahead of Eid festivities

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CAIRO (AP) — Egypt freed more than three dozen prisoners on Sunday, a week before the end of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, which is usually a time of amnesty, a political party and state media said.

Political activists and relatives confirmed that several high-profile detainees were released.

The Reform and Development Party said that those released had been political prisoners in preventive detention. The English edition of the state-run Al-Ahram newspaper said 41 prisoners were released in total.

The government’s human rights body only said in a statement that there had been a release of pretrial detainees, but gave no details.

The move came a week before the Eid holiday that marks the end of Ramadan. It is usually a time when prisoners are released with presidential pardons, but the number released was one of the largest in recent years. However, it is estimated that thousands of political prisoners remain inside Egypt’s jails, many without trial.

Among those released was political activist Waleed Shawky, his wife, Heba Anees, said on social media. She posted a photo of the couple hugging.

Journalist Mohamed Salah was also released, activist Esraa Abdel Fattah said. And Nabeh Elganadi, a human rights lawyer, posted a photo with Radwa Mohamed, who was arrested after posting videos on social media criticizing President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi.

Under sweeping anti-terror laws, Egypt’s state prosecutors have often used vague charges to renew 15-day pre-trial detention periods for months or years, often with little evidence.

On Sunday, Sanaa Seif, the sister of one of Egypt’s most high-profile detained activists, Alaa Abdel Fattah, said her brother had faced further ill-treatment in prison and was on day 22 of a hunger strike.

Meanwhile, new arrests continue to take place. On Saturday, human rights lawyer Khaled Ali said members of a music group specializing in satirical songs had been arrested and charged with spreading lies after writing about rising food prices.

The el-Sissi government, a US ally with deep economic ties to European countries, has been relentlessly silencing dissidents and clamping down on independent organizations for years with arrests, detentions and prison sentences, among others. other restrictions.

Many of the leading activists involved in Egypt’s 2011 uprising are now in prison, most arrested under a draconian law passed in 2013 that effectively bans all street protests.

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