CAIRO: The Ministry of Interior approved Sunday release orders for 20 Bedouins held under the emergency law, including rights activist Yehia Abu Nusseirah.
The latest batch of released detainees has meant that over 100 Bedouins being held under the emergency law have been released so far, after the ministry made overtures of resolving long-standing issues with Sinai’s Bedouins.
Abu Nusseirah had been detained under the emergency law since 2008. He was a founding member of the yet-unlicensed Karama (Dignity) political party in Sinai. His release comes after the release of another Sinai dissident, Mussad Abu Fagr who was freed last week.
Initially, the freed Bedouin detainees did not include political prisoners, but after mounting discontent among Bedouin activists, Abu Fagr and now Abu Nusseirah have been released.
Abu Fagr, an organizer of Bedouin protests and founder of the Bedna Ne’ish (We Want To Live) blog, was arrested in 2007 for driving a car without a license, possessing a firearm without a license and provoking unrest.
During the 31 months he spent in Borg El-Arab prison near Alexandria, Abu Fagr was given 20 release orders but he remained in detention under the emergency law. His wife campaigned for his freedom, often travelling to Cairo to agitate for his release.
Already-tense relations between the state and Sinai’s Bedouins almost completely broke down, with Bedouins angered by the severity of security crackdowns on their communities. The state claims that it is searching for those wanted for various crimes and hiding within the communities.
However, due to recent attempts to placate Bedouin anger, the Ministry of Interior has begun to release prisoners detained under the emergency law, some since 2002.
North Sinai Tagammu party member Khalil Jabr Sawarkeh told Daily News Egypt, “We are hoping this means that Sinai and its people are no longer merely treated as a security issue, and that this is the beginning of an attempt to encourage development in the area.”
Shootouts had erupted last month between state forces and Bedouins after security raids on the town of Wadi Amr and surrounding areas in Central Sinai as security forces searched for wanted Bedouins. The raids angered residents, some of whom then locked down the road leading to Al-Oja crossing.
Minister of Interior Habib El-Adly met with Bedouin representatives earlier this month to try to ease tensions. However, further protests erupted in Central Sinai immediately after the meeting because activists say Bedouin grievances had not been properly addressed.
Abu Fagr said during a satellite television interview that the issue of Sinai would only be resolved in Cairo, when the state stops treating Bedouins as a security issue.
Sawarkeh said, “We are looking for a clean slate and new beginning with the state. Sinai is in a very bad situation and things can improve if we take the initiative to extend our good intentions, as long as they are reciprocated by the other side.”