Egypt releases batch of prisoners in pre-trial detention

Release of 60 people is part of unity efforts while Egypt struggles with fallout from Ukraine war

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi speaks during the closing session of "Tale of a Homeland" conference and announces intention to run for a second term in Cairo, Egypt, January 19, 2018 in this handout picture courtesy of the Egyptian Presidency. The Egyptian Presidency/Handout via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY
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Authorities in Egypt are releasing at least 60 people held in pretrial detention in relation to “opinion and expression” cases, a presidential committee member announced on Thursday.

The releases are part of a series of moves by President Abdel Fattah El Sisi’s government to unite the nation as it begins a national dialogue to chart the country’s political, economic and social future while dealing with the damaging fall-out of the Ukraine war.

It is the second batch of pretrial detainees to be released in recent months. The first, about 50 people, was released in late April.

They included prominent writers and activists. Three journalists walked free from pretrial detention a few days later.

Tarek El Khouly, the member of the presidential committee, announced the releases in a tweet that listed the names of the 60 being released.

Mr El Khouly said some workers were also being released. He did not elaborate, but appeared to be referring to workers arrested for taking part in illegal strikes or protests.

A second member of the presidential committee, Mohammed Abdel Aziz, confirmed the releases and published an identical list of those who are walking free.

Mr Abdel Aziz and Mr El Khouly are members of Parliament.

The releases appeared timed to coincide with the start on Saturday of Eid Al Adha.

Pardons of prisoners in Muslim nations are often announced in the days before major Muslim holidays so the former inmates can spend them with their families.

Mr El Sisi first called for the national dialogue in April and has since made it clear that participants should feel free to speak their mind, provided they have Egypt’s best interests at heart.

He said the only segment of society barred from the dialogue are those who resorted to violence, a thinly veiled reference to the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood.

The inaugural session of the dialogue took place on July 5 when its 19-member board of trustees met to decide on procedural matters. The next session is scheduled for July 19.

Organisers said they have received 100,000 online applications to take part in the dialogue and that about 400 public figures and representatives of parties, unions, associations and civil society groups have been invited.

Mr El Sisi has said he planned to take part in the proceedings in their final stages.

Officially, the dialogue will contribute to the emergence of a New Republic, a term that surfaced about a year ago but has yet to be fully explained by the government.

However, there are indications that the New Republic will be the fruit of Mr El Sisi’s multibillion-dollar efforts to modernise Egypt.

Updated: June 13, 2023, 5:45 AM