The Egyptian Organization for Human Rights (EOHR) will submit Tuesday a 200-name-list demanding President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi consider pardoning them.
“The list includes prisoners in the presidential palace protests’ cases and a group of students from Al-Azhar, Cairo and Ain Shams Universities who were sentenced to three years in prison in protests in Nasr City,” EOHR’s chairman and senior member of state-affiliated National Council for Human Rights (NCHR) Hafez Abu Seada told Daily News Egypt Monday.
Activists Sana’a Seif, Yara Sallam and 21 others were sentenced to two years imprisonment in the final court verdict earlier this week.
The NCHR has also been working in the detainees’ favour concerning the controversial Protest Law, alongside their previously submitted draft amendment to the law, aimed at limiting crackdown on freedom of expression.
“We’re saying the state is legitimately fulfilling its role in facing terrorism,” Abu Seada explained. “However, people should have the right to public assemblies and freedom of expression through whatever peaceful means they choose.”
According to the 2013 Protest Law, violent acts and carrying weapons during public assemblies is punishable by a minimum seven-year prison sentence. A rights’ lawyer had once explained how the police and prosecution authorities are complicit in ‘faking charges’ of violence or arms possession against suspects to make them subject to punishment.
Abu Seada asserted that presidential pardon demands for political detainees were based on three factors. First, the prisoners must be serving a jail sentence of a final court verdict. Second, they must be among the ones whom were proven not have engaged in violence, promoted it or carried weapons.
Finally, the demands were motivated by Al-Sisi’s statements last week in his meeting with editors-in-chief of national newspapers. Al-Sisi was asked about the status of the detained students who could have been unfairly judged, and how to separate those who really engaged in violence from those who were not.
“Surely, there must be innocents among them […] I have assigned committees to conduct investigations inside prisons, and assigned the Minister of Interior to review all prisoners’ status. Any innocent will be out,” Al-Sisi answered, according to the interview published by the State Information System (SIS).
Talks on possible presidential pardons increased in the past couple of days, especially as the fourth anniversary of the January revolution approach. No confirmed information has been released yet. Abu Seada clarified that the list submission was not backed up by sure information, but falls amid their pressure efforts.
“The release of activists will not reduce political and social irritation, but their unreleased will definitely increase it,” Sherif El-Roubi, spokesperson for the political bureau of 6 April Youth Movement told Daily News Egypt.
El-Roubi recalled that protests on 25 January this year will be about the demands of the revolution “which have not been achieved, as we continue to live as if it was Mubarak’s time.
Meanwhile, presidential pardons seem more plausible in students’ case, out of concern for their academic futures. According to human rights activist and NCHR senior member George Ishak, 32 jailed students’ names received an approval release, out of a list of 170.
“It is very important to save the youth,” Ishak told Daily News Egypt. “This is what we have discussed with the Minister of Youth. Also, it is impossible to hold parliamentary elections in circumstances of political frustration.”
Despite that, almost daily reports state more students are being referred to military trials. The Association for Freedom of Thought and Expression (AFTE) is working closely with students’ cases, and said in its weekly report Sunday that over 20 students were referred to military trial in the week from 27 December to the first day of January.
Military trials are supposed to be held for those who violate the specifics mentioned by the law, which are related to assaulting the army. According to Abu Seada, the excessive use of and expansion in military trial practices will backfire at the state by creating a new generation of terrorists or people with similar ideology.