Egypt´s Mursi frees Islamists jailed by Mubarak (REUTERS) By Tom Perry CAIRO, EGYPT 07/31/12 6:02pm EDT)
Reuters News Service
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(Reuters) - Egypt´s President Mohamed Mursi has freed a group of
Islamists jailed for militancy during Hosni Mubarak´s era a step seen
as a gesture to hardliners who supported his presidential bid.
A lawyer for 17 Islamists, many of them held since the 1990s, say
they owe their release to a pardon issued by Mursi. At least three of
the released Islamists had been condemned to death, said the lawyer
Those released in recent days include members of al-Gama´a al-
Islamiya, jailed during the group´s armed insurrection against the
state in the 1990s, and Islamic Jihad, the movement behind the 1981
assassination of President Anwar Sadat.
The pardon underlines efforts by Egypt´s first Islamist president to
satisfy the some of the hardliners he courted with election promises
to implement Islamic law.
Mursi is facing calls from Islamists to secure the release of the
remaining few dozen of their brethren who they believe are being kept
behind bars by security forces resistant to the new president´s
But he is also facing criticism from activists who are questioning
his priorities, believing he has not moved far or fast enough to
secure proper justice for thousands of others jailed by military
courts since Mubarak was deposed, although he launched an
investigation that did result in some releases.
"Mursi is paying off a political debt," said Nabil Abdel Fattah, a
political analyst, referring to a move he said would anger Egyptians
who recall the bloodshed of the 1980s and 1990s.
"This carries a message: that even those who were condemned to death
can be released," Abdel Fattah said. The presidential spokesman could
not be reached for comment, but a security source said the men had
been released on Mursi´s orders.
Mursi has not spoken in public about the pardon for which he has been
publicly thanked by al-Gama´a al-Islamiya. The group says those held
in jail are innocent victims of summary justice in military and other
courts where they were denied fair trials.
Islamist lawyers say some 2,000 Islamists have been released in the
18 months since Hosni Mubarak was removed from power, many of them
last year on the orders of the council of military generals that
steered the transition.
MEN ACCUSED IN KILLING OF POLICE
They have included high-profile figures such as Abboud al-Zumar,
known as the man who supplied the bullets for the Sadat killing.
Mohamed al-Zawahri, brother of al Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahri, also
walked free earlier this year after a retrial cleared him of charges
for which he had spent a decade in jail.
Ali, the lawyer, said the 17 men released in the last few days
include two members of al-Gama´a al-Islamiya accused of killing a
police officer a third accused of killing another police officer in a
separate incident. He said the men had not been involved.
More than 1,000 people were killed between 1992 and 1997 in al-Gama´a
al-Islamiya´s campaign against the state.
The violence culminated in the 1997 Luxor massacre carried out by a
group of al-Gama´a al-Islamiya members who ignored a ceasefire
declared by the group´s leaders. They killed 62 people, mostly
foreign tourists, at a pharaonic temple. In 2003, the group published
books renouncing violence.
Al-Gama´a al-Islamiya has moved into the political mainstream since
Mubarak was removed from power, setting up a political party, winning
seats in parliamentary elections and later campaigning on Mursi´s
behalf in the presidential vote.
Mursi had promised to work for the release of Sheikh Omar Abdel
Rahman, the group´s spiritual leader who is serving a life sentence
in the United States for planning attacks in New York.
Al-Gama´a al-Islamiya has called on Mursi to release the last few
dozen Islamists still being held from the Mubarak era.
According to lawyers working for their release, Mursi had sought to
secure freedom for all the Islamists still being held, but the
security forces had blocked the move, signaling the resistance he is
facing from unreformed security agencies.
"Those remaining must be released," said Tareq al-Zumar, a senior
member of al-Gama´a al-Islamiya. (Writing by Tom Perry; Editing by
Michael Roddy)(© Thomson Reuters 2012. 07/31/12)
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