x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 24 January 2018

Morsi pardons hundreds of prisoners

The pardons were not universal and there were concerns over how judicial authorities would interpret Mr Morsi's decree.

CAIRO // Mohammed Morsi, the Egyptian president, pardoned many of the people who had been jailed by military courts since January 25, 2011, delivering a rejoinder to critics who have said his government has been slow to correct injustices committed during the protests against the regime of Hosni Mubarak.

The announcement, which could free as many as 1,000 prisoners, came on Monday night, the eve of the first anniversary of the deadly Maspero protest that resulted in the deaths of 27 people during clashes with the military. It also came a week after Amnesty International, the human-rights group, issued two reports about extensive rights violations by the Egyptian military and police after the fall of Mr Mubarak.

The pardons were not universal and there were concerns over how judicial authorities would interpret Mr Morsi's decree, however.

The decree was directed only at people with "felony convictions and misdemeanour convictions or attempted crimes committed to support the revolution and the fulfilment of its goals during the period from January 25 till 30 June 2012".

Those facing murder charges were not included in the pardon, nor were people accused of crimes unassociated with supporting the "revolution".

The latter is a concern for rights groups because the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (Scaf) arrested and sentenced hundreds of people in military courts in the chaotic aftermath of the uprising last year, preventing them from what is considered a more thorough due process offered by civilian courts.

The prosecutor general and the military attorney general are required by the decree to publish a list of the people who will be pardoned within one month. Anyone not included in the list has the right to apply to be included. If the person's application is denied, he can appeal to a special commission headed by a senior judge who has the final say on all petitions.

Amnesty International said on October 2 that Mr Morsi's government needed to take "forceful and immediate steps" to bring security arms of Egypt under civilian oversight and to "tackle the bloody legacy of official abuse and guarantee that no one is above the law in Egypt".

The group's report said that security officials who gave orders to crack down on thousands of protesters since the beginning of the uprising should be brought to trial before a civilian court.

Mr Morsi has avoided direct confrontations with the military and police leadership since he forced several senior officials to resign in a sweeping consolidation of his presidential power in August.

"If President Morsi truly wants to reform Egypt, he must establish the principle that no one can be above the law, including the army and the security services," said Suzanne Nossel, the executive director of Amnesty International USA, in a statement on October 2. "Without accountability by the army and security forces who are responsible for decades of human rights violations, justice for victims will remain elusive."