President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi issued a decree on Thursday to pardon 82 people being held in Egypt’s prisons.
The presidential pardon commutes the sentences of those who have received final verdicts and grants release to many being held in pretrial detention.
Sources at the Interior Ministry tell the privately owned Al-Masry Al-Youm newspaper that the Prisons Authority has yet to receive an official directive to release the prisoners, but the authority is preparing for the release nonetheless.
The list of those pardoned includes several who were scheduled to be released soon: television presenter Islam al-Beheiry, whose term ends in a few weeks, and photojournalist Mohamed Ali Salah, who would have been released on December 27. Yusra al-Khatib was also among those pardoned, despite her prison term having expired 12 days ago. She has continued to be held in detention for unannounced reasons.
Ali Salah was arrested in 2013 while covering protests and was initially sentenced to five years in prison, a verdict that was subsequently amended to three years by the Court of Cassation.
Despite expectations, writer Ahmed Naji – who is currently serving a two-year term – was not pardoned, nor was photojournalist Mahmoud “Shawkan” Abu Zeid – who has spent more than three years in detention without being formally charged.
The National Council for Human Rights will continue to consider others for presidential pardon, extending their criteria to prisoners who have been issued final verdicts, according to the council’s deputy head Abdel Ghaffar Shokr.
Others pardoned include Ahmed Mohamed al-Semokraty, Moataz Mohamed al-Mekawy, Shady Saeid Shabaan and Islam Sayed Khalaf – four of the 11 defendants who were sentenced to 15 years in prison in the Suhoor Detainees case – as well as surgeon Ahmed Saeed, who was arrested after participating in a demonstration calling for the release of political prisoners in November 2015 and has since been held in Tora Prison.
Four Al-Azhar students —Abdel Kader Zayed, Mahmoud Amin, Seif Eddin Abdel Halim and Amer Abdel Naby al-Hefzy — arrested along with journalist Ahmed Gamal Zyada in connection to violent clashes that occurred outside the university in 2013, have also been pardoned.