CAIRO: Egypt on Wednesday was releasing around 3,000 prisoners on the orders of the country’s military ruler to mark the one year anniversary of the uprising that toppled Hosni Mubarak, officials said.
Security officials told AFP that 1,959 prisoners were being released after they were pardoned by Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi on Saturday. They were convicted in military tribunals.
"Another 1,014 charged with criminal acts are also in the process of being released early for good behavior," one official said.
Blogger Maikel Nabil, who was jailed last year for insulting Egypt’s armed forces, was among those released after being pardoned.
The order to free the prisoners is one of several concessions offered by Tantawi on the anniversary of the revolution, in an apparent bid to placate protesters who have called for mass nationwide demonstrations.
On Tuesday, the ruling general announced the partial lifting of the decades-old emergency law, but said it would still apply to acts of "thuggery," drawing criticism from local and international rights groups.
The release comes as thousands of Egyptians poured into Tahrir Square, amid differences over whether Wednesday’s rallies were celebrations or a renewed push for change.
On Tuesday night, Mark Nabil posted a picture on Twitter of his brother on his release from prison.
Nabil was pardoned on Saturday.
In a blog he wrote last March, after Mubarak stepped down on Feb. 11, Nabil said the army had been protecting its own interests and not those of the Egyptian people.
An initial three-year sentence was reduced on appeal last month to two years. Nabil’s arrest in March and subsequent jail sentence sparked an outcry.
"If Maikel Nabil perishes, so does the dream of a free Egypt," said Hillel Neuer, executive director of the Geneva-based UN Watch, after the blogger went on hunger strike.
Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa deputy director Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui said: "The end of Maikel Nabil’s cruel ordeal at the hands of the military council is a cause for real celebration.
"Yet 10 months of Maikal’s life have been wasted. He should never have been arrested in the first place. His criminal record must now be expunged and he must be compensated for his ordeal.
"The SCAF should have freed Maikel Nabil long ago. It is shameful that they apparently have only done so now to try to avoid criticism on the anniversary of January 25."