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Egypt's Sisi pardons high-profile activists, journalists in Eid decree

Al-Jazeera journalist Mohamed Fahmy and political activist Sanaa Seif reportedly among those to be released
Egypt's President Sisi signs a presidential decree at his offices in Cairo (AFP)

Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi issued a presidential decree on Wednesday freeing 100 people convicted of breaking the country’s controversial protest law, including two of the most high-profile detained activists.

Jailed Al-Jazeera journalist Mohamed Fahmy and political activist Sanaa Seif are among those to be released, according to local news site al-Shorouk.

The site’s correspondent for the presidency confirmed seeing a release order that included the two as well as Yara Sallam, a lawyer and human rights defender.

Seif and Sallam were arrested together in June 2014 during a demonstration against the protest law, which came into force the previous year.

The law, which rights groups have condemned as repressive, requires demonstrators to give the police three days' notice before hitting the streets, with violators risking hefty fines and lengthy prison terms.

As a result of the presidential decree a total of 100 people, including “sick and elderly prisoners,” are to be released, according to the state-owned al-Ahram newspaper.

The order comes before this week's Eid al-Adha holiday which is celebrated across the Islamic world. Egyptian leaders customarily issue decrees to free prisoners ahead of large national celebrations.

Until now, though, Sisi’s decrees have focused on “criminal” prisoners rather than those understood to be detained for political reasons.

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