The release of activists Mahienour El-Massry and Youssef Shaaban has been withheld for reasons their families do not understand. The young rights lawyer and the journalist completed their prison terms on Thursday and should have walked free by now.
Both served a 15-month prison sentence against the backdrop of a case dating back to the Muslim Brotherhood’s regime, also known as the ‘Raml police station’ case.
Their lawyer had previously told Daily News Egypt that procedures might prolong their release until Saturday. But as of Saturday morning, their families have reported receiving confusing information on their fate, and inaccuracy by authorities regarding their statuses.
“We barely saw them for five minutes this morning,” Ranwa Youssef, wife of journalist Youssef Shaaban, posted to her Facebook on Friday. “We cannot understand why their release is pending, and [authorities] keep giving us different, incorrect information,” she added.
Similarly, El-Massry’s sister Maysson El-Massry posted that it had been “two days of intended delay with little progress on the procedures of their release”.
The only procedure reported by the relatives was the transfer of the two activists from their prisons to the Alexandria Security Directorate.
The release of political activists from jail has not gone smoothly under the supervision of the Ministry of Interior’s different bodies. In more than a case, the defendants had to spend extra days in unlawful detention despite their entitlement to release.
A similar case to that of El-Massry and Youssef took place this week, with doctor Taher Mokhtar and his flatmates, who were granted release on 3 August. However, they were not freed until 10 August, with rights lawyers reporting that they had been transferred to several security facilities. “The Interior Ministry would be penalised if we lived in a state of law,” prominent rights lawyer Gamal Eid tweeted.
In another case, the release was also blocked for one of the youngest political detainees, Mahmoud Hussein, known as the ‘anti-torture T-shirt detainee’. Hussein had exceeded a maximum legal period of two years in prison without trial, and therefore was granted a release by court.
Although the first sign of hindrance came from the prosecution, which challenged the court’s decision, there were many attempts to dismiss his lawyers and relatives from waiting for him in front of the prison, until Hussein’s brother and activist Tarek Tito successfully alerted the media in the case, leading to his brother’s release.
In September 2015, a presidential pardon for 100 young people included many political detainees, several of whom were not released on grounds of a bureaucratic evaluation of their legal status. Among them, two female prisoners, Menna Mostafa and Abrar Al-Anany, were denied release by the Mansoura prison authorities because a date had been set for an appeal session on their two-year prison term–despite the presidential pardon.
Also in May 2015, journalist Ahmed Gamal Ziada was acquitted by the court and granted a release, which also took some time. “They didn’t let me go easily, despite the court acquitting me. In fact, they tried to implicate me in another case by manipulating a man with a name similar to mine who was involved in several cases. It took me and the lawyer a while to finally be able to prove that wrong in court. It was after this that they decided to release me,” Ziada previously stated in an interview with Daily News Egypt.