President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi of Egypt pardoned 100 of the country’s prisoners including three television journalists from Al Jazeera on Wednesday. The pardons came one day prior to Sisi planning to head to the annual summit of world leaders at the United Nations.
Mohamed Fahmy a Canadian, Baher Mohamed an Egyptian and Peter Greste an Australian were sentenced to prison for three years in their retrial in August for operating without a license as press and for broadcasting material that was harmful to the country.
Greste was already deported back in February.
A Canadian government spokesperson said that the country was pleased with the president’s pardon and would help to arrange the departure of Fahmy from Egypt.
The pardons were announced by the official government news agency and by security forces, which said they included prisoners who had violated a law from 2013 that banned protests with no permits as well as some who had become sick.
Human rights organizations accused the authorities in Egypt of widespread rights violations since the army ousted the first democratically elected president Mohamed Morsi an Islamist, after huge street protests against his rule in 2013.
Security forces in Egypt arrested many activists in 2014 for the violation of the protest ban of 2013.
In addition, amongst the pardoned were 16 women, which included Yara Sallam. Sallam was taken into custody in 2014 along with other activists who were accused of the violating the protest law.
These pardons were made public on the same day France made an announcement that it had agreed to sell the military of Egypt two Mistral helicopter carriers, whose sale was originally planned for Russia, but was cancelled.
Egypt still is holding former leader Hosni Mubarak and former president Morsi in prison with each having been found guilty then had their verdicts overturned on appeal but re-trial have taken place.