President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi promised last week to issue a sweeping pardon for young activists and journalists unjustly detained or serving time on minor charges on the fourth anniversary of the January 25 revolution. But as the day drew to an end, no reports had surfaced of their release.
Instead, clashes between police forces and protesters commemorating the anniversary left 18 killed and over 52 injured, as well as 150 detained by security forces nationwide.
Official celebrations to commemorate Police Day and the January 25 revolution anniversary were postponed due to the death and a period of national mourning for the Saudi Arabian King Abdullah.
Sisi had asked the Interior Ministry to compile a list of detainees who would merit such a pardon before January 25, including cases that have provoked an outcry in the media or from rights organizations, the president told the press during his recent visit to the United Arab Emirates.
Jailed activists, journalists and bloggers were expected to be among those pardoned, according to the privately owned Al-Masry Al-Youm newspaper.
Press reports said the list of expected releases would include 584 people. Mohamed Fathy, a journalist and founder of the “Hear Us” initiative, wrote on his Facebook page that his group was working with the president’s office on compiling the list of potential pardons.
Among those who were expecting to be pardoned are three jailed Al Jazeera journalists, including Egyptian-Canadian bureau chief Mohamed Fadel Fahmy, Australian correspondent Peter Greste and Egyptian producer Baher Mohamed. Sisi said in an earlier statement that, had they been arrested under his governance, he would have deported and not imprisoned them. He issued a decree allowing Egypt to deport foreigners who are convicted.
The families of Fahmy and Greste filed the necessary deportation papers and have been pressuring the government for their release.
Days before the anniversary, the sons of ousted President Hosni Mubarak, Gamal and Alaa, were both released from prison after they were granted a retrial by Cairo Criminal Court in the “Presidential Palaces” case. They were either acquitted or released pending investigations in all other cases.