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Egypt: 7 human rights organisations call for pardon of political prisoners

A woman demonstrates with hundreds on 1 July, 2012 in front of the presidential palace in Cairo to demand the realease of political prisoners [GIANLUIGI GUERCIA/AFP/GettyImages]
A woman demonstrates in Cairo to demand the release of political prisoners [GIANLUIGI GUERCIA/AFP/GettyImages]

Seven Egyptian human rights organisations have called for a pardon for two political prisoners who were sentenced over the weekend by Egypt's Emergency State Security Criminal Court.

On Sunday, the ESSC court sentenced former presidential candidate and head of the Strong Egypt Party Abdel Moneim Aboul Fotouh, 70, to 15 years in prison for "spreading false news" and "incitement against state institutions" after he criticised Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi during a visit to London.

Aboul Fotouh was arrested and detained in February 2018 and over the course of his incarceration his family has raised grave concerns about his health. He has suffered three heart attacks whilst in prison.

The organisations, which included the Freedom Initiative and the Committee for Justice, denounced the rulings on the basis that the emergency court "does not observe minimum fair trial guarantees and their rulings cannot be appealed."

The seven organisations are also calling for a pardon for Aboul Fotouh's deputy, Mohamed Al-Qassas, who was sentenced to ten years in prison.

READ: Egypt issued highest number of death sentences worldwide in 2021, says Amnesty

There were 23 other people in the same trial, including Muslim Brotherhood supreme guide Mahmoud Ezzat, 77, who was also sentenced to 15 years in prison.

Amnesty International condemned the ruling as "grossly unfair and politically-motivated."

"The defendants, some held since 2013, have been subjected to a litany of abuses including torture and ill-treatment," the rights watchdog added.

The seven signatories to the statement added that the ruling was part of a pattern whereby the regime takes "revenge against politicians" and noted that it runs contrary to the Egyptian government's stated aim that it is embracing a national dialogue.

In April, President Al-Sisi called on the country's political parties to take part in a comprehensive dialogue, excluding the Muslim Brotherhood, which is outlawed in Egypt.

Critics have said that Egypt is trying to quell criticism both at home and abroad by making pledges for change, but that in reality very little changes on the ground.

In September last year the government announced it was lifting the state of emergency and with that emergency courts should have been dissolved.

But the government announced that anyone who had been referred to emergency courts before they were dissolved would still have to be tried by one.

Rulings by emergency courts are particularly brutal as defendants have no right to appeal.

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