Carrying their belongings in plastic bags and prostrating in prayer on the concreted ground, 332 young Egyptians celebrated their release from prison on Thursday after receiving a presidential pardon.
State-run Al-Ahram newspaper reported jubilant families meeting their relatives, released in time for Ramadan on the order of President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi.
Many of the released detainees had health problems but some political prisoners were also freed.
Egypt’s President Sisi pardons over 330 mostly youth prisoners https://t.co/ltRYBZqJA8
Though it could be to make room for the recent uptick in activists arrested in recent weeks, like Shady Ghazaly Harb, Shady Abu Zaid, and Amal Fathy
— Eric Knecht (@EricKnecht) May 16, 2018
There have been several rounds of prisoner releases under Sisi, often coinciding with public holidays, but his government has also been notorious for its sweeping arrests, many of them for political activity.
A state security prosecutor on Tuesday ordered the detention of prominent political activist Shady Ghazaly Harb, who may now face terrorism charges, and a female activist who posted a video complaining of sexual harassment who was detained last week.
One of Egypt’s most high-profile cases, involving members of the Muslim Brotherhood and photojournalist Mahmoud Abu Zeid, involves 739 defendants.
Earlier in May, a report by rights group Amnesty International said tens of thousands of Egyptians had been arrested under Sisi and also criticised the use of solitary confinement in Egyptian prisons.
“With torture rife and prison conditions falling far short of the international minimum standards for the treatment of prisoners, there is a human rights crisis in Egypt’s prisons. Prisoners are subjected to overcrowding, a lack of sufficient nutritious food, bedding and minimum hygiene and water and sanitation standards, and poor ventilation and lighting,” the report said.