Egypt announces freedom, mass pardon for 30 jailed activists

CAIRO — Egypt announced the release of 30 political activists from prison late Thursday, the latest in a series of mass prison releases amid increased international scrutiny of the country’s human rights record.

There was no immediate word on the identity of the activists, nor could it be immediately confirmed how many of them had already escaped.

The announcement was made by Tarik el-Avadi, a member of the Egyptian Presidential Pardons Commission. He said the 30 had been remanded in custody and were facing charges related to their “opinion”.

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

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

The issue was raised earlier this month in Egypt, which hosted the two-week climate summit. The conference held in Sharm el-Sheikh on the Red Sea was partially overshadowed by the hunger strike of the imprisoned Egyptian political dissident Alaa Abdel-Fattah.

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At the opening of the summit, known as COP27, Abdel-Fattah escalated his months-long partial hunger strike to completely cut his calorie intake and stopped drinking water to raise awareness for his cause and others like him.

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

In the months leading up to the summit, Egypt sought to improve its international image, pardoning dozens of prisoners and developing a new “strategy” to improve human rights conditions.

Rights groups remain skeptical that these moves will result in lasting change, with Amnesty International describing the strategy as a “shiny cover” to curry favor with foreign governments and financial institutions.