Egypt Releases Activists Despite Criticism Of Its Human Rights Record
Egypt released six activists on Sunday, including journalist Esraa Abdel-Fattah, an icon of the 2011 revolution, just days after the United States cautioned Cairo about a crackdown on human rights campaigners.
President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, a former army chief, has led a broad crackdown on opposition since taking power in 2014.
The US urged Egypt on Wednesday not to target human rights activists, saying the problem would affect military sales to its Arab partner.
According to analysts, the latest releases are intended to reduce international pressure on Egypt’s human rights record.
According to lawyer Khaled Ali, who posted photos of Abdel-Fattah leaving prison, the prosecution authorized her release after nearly 22 months in pre-trial custody.
She, along with Abdel Nasser Ismail, the leader of the Popular Alliance party, and Gamal El-Gammal, a journalist and opposition figure, were ordered released on Saturday.
The prosecution unexpectedly ordered the release of notable lawyer and rights activist Mahienour El-Masri, as well as journalists Motaz Wadnan and Mostafa El-Asar, on Sunday.
All had been held in solitary confinement awaiting trial on charges of distributing “false news” and collaborating “with terrorists” or “illegal groups.”
They were all released pending an inquiry into the charges they faced, according to security and legal authorities.
According to Mustafa Kamel al-Sayyed, a political science professor at Cairo University, the releases are “aimed at alleviating domestic tensions and could have some good repercussions for Egypt’s image overseas.”
“However, I doubt it will change the situation because there are still many political prisoners,” he continued.
Senior security authorities claimed Sunday that well-known journalist Abdel Nasser Salam had been jailed a week after criticising Sisi on Facebook, without revealing any specifics about his incarceration.
Salam, a former editor-in-chief of Egypt’s state-run daily al-Ahram, had accused the president of jeopardizing Egyptian interests by failing to resolve a disagreement with Ethiopia over an under-construction dam on the Nile, and demanded that he “resign immediately.”
Egypt’s human rights record has drawn widespread condemnation, especially from the United Nations and the United States.
Following the indictment of famous activist Hossam Bahgat on charges connected to his use of social media, Washington issued a warning to Cairo not to persecute rights activists.
State Department spokesman Ned Price told reporters, “We’ve emphasized to the Egyptian authorities our strong belief that individuals like Hossam Bahgat should not be persecuted for peacefully expressing their views.”
Price declined to address money when asked if the issue would effect a significant arms deal being explored for Egypt, but added, “Human rights across the board.” Brief News from Washington Newsday.