The decision on Sunday comes a week before the Eid holiday that marks the end of the month-long Ramadan fast. It is typically a time when prisoners are released on presidential pardons. Thousands of political prisoners however are estimated to remain inside Egypt’s jails, many without trial.
Among the released was political activist Waleed Shawky, his wife Heba Anees said in a post on social media. She posted a picture of the couple hugging. Journalist Mohamed Salah was also released, according to activist Esraa Abdel Fattah. Nabeh Elganadi, a human rights lawyer, posted a picture with Radwa Mohamed, who was arrested after making videos posted on social media criticizing President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi.
Under broad counterterrorism laws, Egypt’s state prosecutors have often used vague charges to renew 15-day pretrial detention periods for months or years, often with little evidence.
On Sunday, Sanaa Seif, the sister of one of Egypt’s most high-profile detained activists, Alaa Abdel Fattah, said that her brother had faced new ill-treatment in prison and that he was on the 22th day of a hunger strike. The mysterious death of an economic researcher detained for two months has prompted further outcry in recent weeks.
The government el-Sissi — a U.S. ally with deep economic ties to European countries — has been relentlessly silencing dissenters and clamping down on independent organizations for years with arrests, detentions and jail sentences, and other restrictions.
Many of the top activists involved in the 2011 uprising in Egypt are now in prison, most of them arrested under a draconian law passed in 2013 that effectively bans all street protests.