Egypt announces freedom, mass pardon for 30 imprisoned activists

CAIRO (AP) — Egypt announced late Thursday the release of 30 political activists from prison, the latest in a string of mass releases from detention amid mounting international scrutiny of the country’s human rights record.

The identities of the activists were not immediately known and it was not immediately possible to confirm how many of them have already been released.

The announcement came from Tarik el-Awady, a member of Egypt’s presidential pardon committee. He said the 30 were in pre-trial detention, facing charges related to their “opinions”.

El-Awady later posted photos, describing several of the released prisoners hugging relatives and friends.

Since 2013, the government of Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi has cracked down on dissidents and critics, imprisoning thousands, virtually banning protests and monitoring social media. Human Rights Watch estimated in 2019 that as many as 60,000 political prisoners are being held in Egyptian prisons, many without trial.

The issue came up earlier this month when Egypt hosted the two-week global climate summit. The conference in the Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh was partly overshadowed by the hunger strike of imprisoned Egyptian political dissident, Alaa Abdel-Fattah.

When the summit known as COP27 opened, Abdel-Fattah intensified his months-long, partial hunger strike to completely cut off calorie intake and also stopped drinking water in an effort to draw attention to his cause and others like he.

As concerns about his fate grew, he ended his strike. He remains in prison.

In the months leading up to the summit, Egypt had sought to rectify its international image by pardoning dozens of prisoners and establishing a new “strategy” to improve its human rights record.

Rights groups have remained skeptical about whether these moves will translate into lasting change, with Amnesty International describing the strategy as a “shiny cover” used to extort favors from foreign governments and financial institutions.

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