Egypt’s president pardons activist Douma, other prisoners -state TV

CAIRO (Reuters) -Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi pardoned prominent activist Ahmed Douma, along with a number of prisoners, state TV said on Saturday.

Douma, a leading figure in the pro-democracy revolt that toppled autocrat Hosni Mubarak, was detained a decade ago and sentenced in 2019 to 15 years in prison for rioting and attacking security forces.

Last month, authorities also freed rights researcher Patrick Zaki and lawyer Mohamed el-Baqer after they were pardoned by al-Sisi.

Baqer and others could be seen greeting Douma when he came out of Badr prison.

“I would have liked to have said that I am happy after 10 years (in detention), but honestly I am postponing the celebration until everyone is out,” Douma told Reuters outside the prison. “So, I hope this will be soon.”

Since late 2021 Egypt has taken a number of steps that it says are aimed at addressing human rights, including amnesties for some prominent prisoners. In May authorities launched a national dialogue intended to generate debate around the country’s political, social and economic future.

Sisi said on Wednesday he would refer recommendations from the dialogue to the relevant authorities and parliament.

Critics have dismissed the moves as cosmetic and say arrests have continued. Egypt’s most prominent activist, Alaa Abd el-Fattah, and many other detainees swept up in a decade-long crackdown on dissent, remain in prison.

Authorities have said the arrests were made on security grounds.

Leftist politician Hamdeen Sabahi also greeted Douma upon his release, and thanked Sisi for the pardon.

“I hope that we can continue on this road until Egypt becomes a country void of any prisoners of conscience,” he told Reuters.

Presidential elections are scheduled for early 2024, as the country struggles with an economic crisis.

(Reporting by Mohamed Hendawy, Sherif Fahmy, Amr Abdallah; Writing by Enas Alashray, Adam Makary, and Nafisa Eltahir; Editing by Toby Chopra, Tomasz Janowski and Frances Kerry)