Eight Egyptian rights organizations have issued several recommendations aimed to ensure that the regime’s supposed new approach to political prisoners would offer positive results rather than a mere show.
Eight leading Egyptian human rights organizations on 5 May, issued a series of recommendations which are aimed at ensuring that the regime’s supposed new approach to political prisoners results in something more than another public relations stunt.
The rights organizations welcomed the new focus on releasing political prisoners as an “overdue,” “necessary,” and “urgent” step, given the tens of thousands of prisoners of conscience in Egypt’s jails. In fact, freeing all political prisoners was the first of the seven steps that rights organizations proposed last year to stop Egypt’s “unprecedented erosion of human rights.”
Yet, the groups noted, previous efforts to address the issue—such as the creation of the Presidential Pardon Committee in 2016, which soon fizzled out before Abdel Fattah al-Sisi ordered it reactivated last week—saw only sporadic, seemingly random releases alongside an even greater number of arrests, leading the number of political prisoners to continue to grow over time.
They therefore called on authorities to release anyone held in freedom of expression cases, all individuals who have spent more than two years in pretrial detention, including those subjected to case recycling, and anyone convicted in an unfair emergency court.
The groups also urged the Pardon Committee to set a timeline for its work, announce the names of those released, and provide the possibility of appeal for those whose cases are rejected.
Even following these steps, the organizations concluded, will not resolve Egypt’s political prisoner crisis unless authorities discontinue their abuse of the pretrial detention system and their “revolving door” policy of making new arrests even as they release other political prisoners.
Adding further weight to the organizations’ final point, the recent wave of releases was accompanied by the arrest of political science researcher Amgad Gabbas at Cairo International Airport, it has emerged today.
Gabbas was reportedly detained on unclear charges at the airport as he arrived in Egypt for Eid al-Fitr, joining other researchers and human rights defenders like Patrick George Zaki in being detained upon arrival in Egypt. The now-defunct Arabic Network for Human Rights Information referred to Cairo’s airport as “a trap for critics and opponents.”
Meanwhile, another researcher, Ahmed Samir Santawy, faces his retrial in an emergency court on bogus false news charges on May 9.
It is also noteworthy that according to Daarb news website, activist Ahmed “Rigo” Maher on 4 May wrote a letter decrying his continued arbitrary detention and the lack of any evidence against him. The letter marked two years since he was first arrested.