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Egypt: Sisi pardons imprisoned former parliamentarian Zyad el-Elaimy

Zyad el-Elaimy spent three years in prison on a number of charges including fomenting 'unrest against the state'
Zyad El-Eleimy after his release from prison on Monday (Twitter)
Zyad El-Elaimy embraces a family member after his release from prison on Monday after three years in prison (Twitter)

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi has pardoned a prominent parliamentarian and opposition activist who was imprisoned for three years on charges of fomenting "unrest against the state".

Zyad el-Elaimy, a key figure in the 2011 Arab Spring protests that ousted long-term ruler Hosni Mubarak, was seen after being released from prison on Monday.

A secular politician who was elected to parliament for the Social Democratic Party following Mubarak's overthrow, the 42-year-old's release was hailed by a number of activists.

"Zyad our childhood friend is finally free," tweeted Mona Seif, an activist whose brother Alaa Abd el-Fattah has been one of the most high-profile political prisoners in Egypt.

Pardons ahead of COP27

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A wave of pardons by the Egyptian president, who seized power in a coup in 2013, has come ahead of the COP27 UN climate conference set to take place in the country next month.

There are currently, however, thought to be about 60,000 political prisoners in the country and rights groups have criticised the releases as a cynical attempt to shore up Egypt's reputation ahead of the international summit.

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Last week, environmental activist Greta Thunberg tweeted a petition that bore the signature of hundreds of human rights groups and individuals who expressed dismay over Egypt hosting the summit.

"We stand in solidarity with prisoners of conscience in Egypt," she tweeted.

The petitioners said that they wanted to "emphasise that effective climate action is not possible without open civic space.

"As host of Cop27, Egypt risks compromising the success of the summit if it does not urgently address ongoing arbitrary restrictions on civil society.

"Prisoners are held in detention conditions that violate the absolute prohibition of torture and other ill-treatment, and since President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi came to power hundreds have died in custody amid reports of denial of healthcare and other abuse," they added.

Human rights activists stressed that tackling climate change goes hand-in-hand with addressing social and economic inequality, corruption and impunity.

"We stress the importance of the right to freedom of expression and independent reporting to foster efforts to address the climate crisis," they added, calling on Egyptian authorities to release jailed human rights defenders and journalists and end the blocking of websites of independent media and civil society groups.

The letter added that under the current government "thousands continue to be arbitrarily detained without a legal basis, following grossly unfair trials, or solely for peacefully exercising their human rights".

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