Egypt President Abdel Fattah El Sisi on Monday pardoned a former member of parliament sentenced to five years in jail last year for spreading “false news”, a presidential committee member mandated to review the cases of political prisoners said.
Ziad El Eleimy was arrested in 2019 on charges of spreading false news after a lawyer reported him to authorities, citing comments he made during an interview with the BBC.
He also was among the most prominent figures of the popular 2011 uprising that forced autocratic leader Hosni Mubarak to step down that year.
He was elected to parliament later that year, serving in a chamber dominated by radicals and members of the now-banned Muslim Brotherhood, which was removed from power in 2013.
Mr El Eleimy is known to suffer from poor health, which worsened during his incarceration. It was not immediately known whether he has yet left prison.
His pardon, according to member of the presidential committee Tareq El Khouly, was ordered “in response to calls by political parties and forces”. He made no mention of Mr El Eleimy’s health or the crime for which he was convicted.
Mr El Sisi has this year ordered the release of hundreds of critics held in pre-trial detention in what is widely seen as a relaxation of the iron grip with which he ruled the country of 104 million people since he took the reins in 2014.
Beside the releases, the Egyptian leader has also recently allowed a carefully weighed measure of freedom of expression that critics carefully took advantage of with online articles criticising economic policies and the government’s spending priorities.
In April, Mr El Sisi also called for a national dialogue to chart the country’s political future. The dialogue remains in the preparatory stage.