Egypt releases over 4,000 prisoners for Sinai Liberation Day
Official media reported that 3,778 prisoners had been pardoned and released while 233 had been conditionally released.
The President customarily grants pardons for prisoners on Sinai Liberation Day, however this year's amnesty included far more detainees than usual.
Although the authorities made no mention of the coronavirus crisis, the scale of release indicates that they are responding to pressure to reduce overcrowding in the country's detention facilities, which coud lead to a catastrophic outbreak of the virus.
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Last year, 67 inmates were pardoned on the Sinai anniversary, while in 2018, 700 detainees were released.
The Interior Ministry announced the criteria for this year's release earlier this month, which included those who had served more than half their sentence, or 15 years of a life sentence.
However, individuals convicted of national security, terror or protest law violations - encompassing most of Egypt’s estimated 60,000 political prisoners - would not be eligible for release.
Egypt's authorities freed 15 prominent political opponents from prison in March, without specifying coronavirus as a reason.
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Abdel Fattah is one of nearly 3,000 people arrested in a police crackdown following rare anti-government demonstrations in 2019. The 37-year-old is one of an estimated 25,000-30,000 prisoners held in pre-trial detention, having not been convicted of any crime.
A 2016 report on prison conditions in Egypt said detainees were denied access to the most basic hygiene facilities and likened the conditions to medieval times "when maltreatment, torture, deprivation of food and healthcare were typical characteristics of life in prison".
Reports of the cramped and unsanitary conditions have sparked fears that the coronavirus - known to spread rapidly in confined spaces - will unleash a health disaster once it enters Egypt’s detention facilities.
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