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Prominent Egyptian judge Mahmoud Khudairi released after six years in prison

Khudairi, 79, was one of the icons of the 2005 Judges' Club, which mobilised against Hosni Mubarak's rule
Mahmoud al-Khudairi campaigned for judicial independence under Hosni Mubarak (picture from his daughter's Facebook account)

Prominent Egyptian judge Mahmoud al-Khudairi has been released after serving six years in prison, his lawyer said on Thursday.

Khudairi, 79, is one of the oldest political prisoners held since president Abdel Fattah el-Sisi ousted his predecessor Mohamed Morsi in a military coup in July 2013.

Khudairi was arrested on 24 November 2013, and has since been handed two three-year prison sentences on charges of “insulting the judiciary” and “torturing a lawyer”.

Activists and his lawyer condemned the charges as trumped-up and “vindictive” due to Khudairi’s opposition to Sisi’s coup.

Khudairi’s health has worsened throughout his incarceration, according to his lawyer. He underwent open-heart surgery in 2015, and was denied regular family visits.

Following longtime autocrat Hosni Mubarak's fall in 2011, Khudairi was elected in the first post-2011 house of parliamentarians, and presided over its legal panel.

Prior to his political career, Khudairi served as the vice president of  Egypt's highest appeals court. 

He rose to prominence in 2005 when he joined a movement of judges calling for an end to corruption in the judiciary and independence from executive interference, particularly in forging elections results under Mubarak's rule. He was elected head of the Judges’ Club in Egypt’s second largest city, his hometown Alexandria.

Sisi’s government, in office since 2014, has been accused by rights groups of holding tens of thousands of political prisoners on false charges. Sisi however denies that Egypt has any political prisoners.

Since Sisi’s re-election in March in a vote condemned as “unfree and unfair”, Human Rights Watch said that security forces have “escalated a campaign of intimidation, violence, and arrests against political opponents, civil society activists, and many others who have simply voiced mild criticism of the government".

Morsi, the country’s first democratically elected leader, died in a courtroom in July after six years of solitary confinement and medical negligence. The circumstance of his detention were described by HRW as “amounting to torture".