Egypt 'frees political prisoners'

Thirty-four prisoners reportedly freed in move seen as part of reforms pledged by embattled government.

    Mubarak has offered political reforms in a bid to end the protests around the country [Reuters]

    The Egyptian government is reported to have freed 34 political prisoners, including some members of the Muslim Brotherhood, in a move seen to be part of promised reforms aimed at ending anti-government protests.

    According to Al Jazeera sources, more than a thousand other prisoners were released on Wednesday after completing at least three-quarters of their sentences. And another 840 priosoners were released from the Sinai province.

    "Interior Minister Mahmoud Wagdy issued an order today releasing 34 political detainees considered to be among the extremist elements, after evaluating their positions," the state-owned Middle East News Agency (MENA) said on Tuesday.

    "They showed good intentions and expressed their desire to live peaceably with society."

    The report added they had handed themselves over to the authorities after escaping from prison during several days of disorder last month.

    Security forces were withdrawn from the streets after failing to crush millions of protesters on January 28. Security then broke down at many prisons around the country.

    During the 1990s, Egypt battled Islamist fighters who wanted to replace the government of Hosni Mubarak, the president, with an Islamic state.

    Political detainees

    Many fighters remain in jail from the time of Mubarak's predecessor Anwar Sadat, who was assassinated by soldiers linked to an Islamist group in 1981.

    According to human rights groups, it is not clear how many people are detained in Egypt for political activities, such as joining banned groups or planning or carrying out acts of violence, but they estimate them to be in thousands.

    Mubarak has offered other concessions in an attempt to end ongoing protests around the country, which included the appointment of a vice-president and a new cabinet.

    Political reforms have also been pledged and the government said this would include freeing detainees and lifting emergency laws.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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