May 17, 2019 / 3:58 PM / 6 months ago

Egypt's President Sisi pardons 560 prisoners

FILE PHOTO: Participants attend a court session for Muslim Brotherhood members, in Cairo, Egypt, December 26, 2018. REUTERS/Amr Abdallah Dalsh//File Photo

CAIRO (Reuters) - Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi has pardoned 560 prisoners, the majority of whom were accused of supporting the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood, two judicial sources said on Friday.

Of those pardoned, 482 were imprisoned on charges related to the Brotherhood, a decades-old Islamist political movement with a mass following, the sources said.

A prominent journalist, Abdel Halim Qandil, who was sentenced in 2017 to three years in prison on charges of insulting the judiciary, was also pardoned.

The pardoned prisoners also included two women who organized demonstrations outside metro stations last year after fare hikes.

The prisoners are expected to be released on Friday. The pardons were announced in the official gazette late on Thursday.

The Brotherhood won the first free elections after the 2011 uprising that ended autocrat Hosni Mubarak’s 30-year rule, but was toppled by the army after a year in power.

Since then, the group has been banned and hundreds of its followers have been jailed. The Brotherhood says it is a non-violent movement and denies any relationship to violent insurgencies waged by al Qaeda and Islamic State militants.

Rights activists say Sisi has overseen a relentless crackdown on dissent in Egypt since 2014. At least 60,000 people have been jailed on political grounds, according to a Human Rights Watch estimate.

Sisi has denied holding political prisoners and his backers say the measures were necessary to stabilize Egypt after its 2011 uprising.

Reporting by Ahmed Mohamed Hassan and Mohamed Wali; Writing by Lena Masri, Editing by William Maclean

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