Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi has pardoned 502 prisoners before the Eid al-Fitr holiday including prominent businessman Hesham Talaat Moustafa, according to a presidential decree issued on Friday.
The prisoners to be released include 25 women and “a large number of youth jailed in cases involving protesting and gathering,” state news agency MENA reported, without specifying how many.
Since seizing power in mid-2013 from the Muslim Brotherhood, Sisi has presided over a crackdown on Islamist opponents that has seen hundreds killed and many thousands jailed. Activists and liberal opponents have also been imprisoned.
A law requiring permission from the Interior Ministry for any public gathering of more than 10 people is strictly enforced and has largely succeeded in ending the kind of mass demonstrations that helped unseat two presidents in three years.
Among those pardoned was Hesham Talaat Moustafa, the former chairman of one of Egypt’s largest real estate developers, Talaat Mostafa Group.
Moustafa had been sentenced to 15 years in prison for hiring a hitman to kill Lebanese pop star Suzanne Tamim in 2008. He was pardoned on health concerns, security sources told Reuters.
Sisi ordered the interior ministry to implement the decision before the start of the holiday, which immediately follows the holy month of Ramadan that ends this Saturday.
(Reporting by Omar Fahmy and Ahmed Mohamed Hassan; Writing by Eric Knecht; Editing by Andrew Heavens)