Egypt: Rights Watchdog calls for reintegration of released political prisoners

EFHR denounces Egyptian authorities’ failure to properly compensate and reintegrate released political prisoners

The Egyptian Front for Human Rights (EFHR) on Wednesday denounced Egyptian authorities’ failure to properly compensate and reintegrate released political prisoners in spite of their “public relations campaign” seeking to show progress.

Authorities have released approximately one thousand political prisoners since the Presidential Pardon Committee resumed its work nearly one year ago.

However, they have also arbitrarily arrested around three times that number during the same period, as EFHR documented last week.

The security restrictions, economic struggles, and other challenges faced by those released have been in the spotlight since activist Sherif al-Rouby was re-arrested in September after speaking publicly about the difficulties he experienced during his three months out of prison.

Since then, the committee and Egyptian authorities have claimed to be solving the problem through their “Integration of Released Persons” campaign, but EFHR’s new report documents the campaign’s many shortcomings.

While some high-profile detainees have received support after leaving prison, the vast majority receive none in returning to their old jobs or finding new employment, let alone psychological support for the trauma they suffered behind bars.

Despite that lack of support, former political prisoners have been pressured to thank and promote the work of the committee online.

Moreover, security forces have been deeply involved in the public relations campaign, ensuring that media are around to film releases and insisting that those released wear new clothes rather than prison garb.

In one case, they even ordered a released detainee back into prison so that they could re-film the exit scene.

As if on cue, the pardon committee’s Tarek El Khouly announced the releases of another 30 political prisoners and again said that the committee will “work to reintegrate those released in cooperation with all state agencies and institutions.”

Those released include Ahmed Nabil Ebrahim and journalist Ahmed Abdel Majid, both of whom were arrested during the crackdown on dissent during COP27 in Egypt.

Security forces arrested Ebrahim after stopping him on the street and searching through his cell phone, while Abdel Majid was detained over a Facebook post about imprisoned activist Alaa Abdel Fattah’s hunger strike.

Immediately before the advent of Ramadan, Reform and Development Party head Mohamed Anwar El Sadat again called on al-Sisi to pardon all of Egypt’s prisoners of conscience.

“I urge the President once again to take a sincere step towards unifying all Egyptians and rising above our past disagreements and mistakes,” wrote El Sadat.

“Ramadan is an opportune time to cheer up and please Egyptian families by bringing their loved ones home.”

El Sadat also echoed an appeal from POMED and other human rights groups for the International Committee of the Red Cross to be allowed to visit the Badr Rehabilitation and Correctional Center in light of reports of egregious and collective violations of human rights taking place there.

Family visits finally occurred at Badr 1 Prison following a long interval, but authorities continue to cut off Badr 3 Prison, which has been the site of the most alarming developments.

Despite the worrying conditions at Badr, Wadi al-Natrun, and the other so-called rehabilitation and correctional centers, authorities continue to tout the openings of new ones as if they represent an end to the country’s prisons crisis.

Finally, El Sadat urged security agencies and judicial authorities to create a committee “responsible for examining the status of those under travel ban as well as expats willing to return back” to ensure they receive their identity documents.

The call follows a Human Rights Watch report from last week showing how Egyptian authorities have systematically refused to provide or renew the identity documents of dissidents abroad.