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Human rights organisations: ‘Denying prisoners of conscience pardon reflects coup government’s intention to persecute oppositionists’ 

Prion cells, 10 March 2020 [Daniel/Flickr]
Prison cells, 10 March 2020 [Daniel/Flickr]

Eight Egyptian human rights organisations have denounced the authorities’ deliberate exclusion of political detainees from the pardon issued on 14 April, and banning peaceful opposition politicians and prisoners of conscience, including journalists, lawyers and jurists from the amnesty list.

The organisations consider that this deliberate exclusion reflects the coup government’s stance on the right to freedom of expression, which it considers as a threat to national security more severe than murder and violent crimes.

The organisations added that the pardon, issued on the usual annual date on the occasion of the Sinai Liberation Day, ignored all local and international human rights’ calls for the release of prisoners of conscience and those held in pre-trial detention, as well as prisoners who were not proven to be involved in violent crimes, and other elderly and sick detainees, who carry autoimmune and chronic diseases, in addition to pregnant women and children.

The human rights organisations indicated that although the pardon was aimed at reducing overcrowding in prisons in light of the ongoing coronavirus crisis, the Egyptian authorities only approved the release of convicted criminals, who were found guilty of murders and other violent crimes.

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The organisations confirmed: “This conduct reflects the authorities’ intention to make sure that most prisoners of conscience, who were detained after protesting peacefully against the state policies, as well as journalists, lawyers, jurists, and politicians, imprisoned on fabricated charges, will not benefit from presidential pardons or conditional release.”

Most of the charges are fabricated based on loose definitions of the anti-terrorism law. Thus, local and international organisations have repeatedly warned against using this legislation to score political reprisals and confiscate the right to freedom of expression under the pretext of combating terrorism.

The human rights organisations asserted that: “The government’s recent decisions and continuous repressive practices during the past weeks, including the arrest and enforced disappearance of translator Marwa Arafa and researcher and translator Kholoud Al-Saeed, in addition to detaining journalists Atef Hassab Allah and Mustafa Saqr, as well as lawyer Mohsen Bahnasy, and other activists, who belong to different political and intellectual currents, clearly reflects a desire to repress and silence the oppositionists even further by throwing them revengefully in prisons, despite international calls to reduce overcrowding in detention facilities to curb the spread of COVID-19, that has infected more than three million people worldwide.”

The human rights organisations insisted that: “The repressive policies employed by the coup authorities against oppositionists or anyone who dares to criticise the state policies, clearly contradict Egypt’s international pledges last month to the United Nations (UN) during the universal periodic review session of its human rights file.”

The organisations continued: “These oppressive methods consecrate the authorities’ position on the right to freedom of expression, freedom of peaceful assembly and the right to political participation, especially in times of crisis, while considering those rights as crimes threatening the safety and security of society, according to the text of the pardon and conditional release proclamation.”

The signatory organisations are the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies (CIHRS), the Arabic Network for Human Rights Information (ANHRI), El Nadim Centre, The Freedom Initiative, Belady for Rights and Freedoms, the Egyptian Front for Human Rights (EFHR), and the Community Resources for Justice as well as The Egyptian Commission for Rights and Freedoms (ECRF).

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