CAIRO — Egypt announced Thursday evening the release of 30 political activists from prison, the latest in a series of mass releases of detainees amid heightened international scrutiny of the country’s human rights record.
There was no immediate word on the identities of the activists and it was not possible to immediately confirm how many of them have already been released.
The announcement came from Tarik el-Awady, a member of Egypt’s presidential pardon committee. He said the 30 people were in pre-trial detention, facing charges related to their “opinions”.
El-Awady later posted photographs, describing them as showing several of the released detainees hugging family members and friends.
Since 2013, Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sisi’s government has cracked down on dissent and critics, jailing thousands, virtually banning protests and monitoring social media. Human Rights Watch estimated in 2019 that as many as 60,000 political prisoners are held in Egyptian prisons, many without trial.
The issue came into focus during Egypt’s hosting of the two-week global climate summit earlier this month. The conference in the seaside resort of Sharm el-Sheikh was partly overshadowed by the hunger strike of jailed Egyptian political dissident Alaa Abdel-Fattah.
At the opening of the summit known as COP27, Abdel-Fattah escalated his months-long partial hunger strike to completely stop all calorie intake and also stopped drinking water in a bid to attract hunger. attention to his case and to others like him.
Then, as concerns over his fate mounted, he ended his strike. He remains in jail.
In the months leading up to the summit, Egypt had sought to rectify its international image, pardoning dozens of prisoners and establishing a new “strategy” to improve human rights conditions.
Rights groups have remained skeptical whether the moves will result in lasting change, with Amnesty International describing the strategy as a “brilliant cover-up” used to broker favors from foreign governments and financial institutions.