Egypt’s top appeals court has overturned a verdict that placed more than 1,500 people on a national terror list, including the country’s former democratically elected President Mohamed Morsi, who was deposed in 2013.
The Court of Cassation returned the case back to a lower court for reconsideration, local media reported on Wednesday.
The latest move was in response to a number of appeal cases filed by defendants, many of whom belong to the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood organisation.
Among those who appealed is retired football star Mohamed Aboutrika, who was first placed on the list last year and was accused of funding the organisation – an allegation he denied.
Under an anti-terrorism law passed in 2015 and heavily criticised by international human rights groups, any person who had been placed on a “terror list” was subject to a travel ban and faced having their passports and assets frozen for three years.
The Muslim Brotherhood had been banned following Morsi’s overthrow in July 2013 in a coup led by General Abdel Fattah el-Sisi – who became the country’s president a year later. Sisi was re-elected as president in March this year.
It is unclear at this stage whether the Muslim Brotherhood as an organisation has been removed from the terror list, or whether the latest move only pertained to these individuals.
Dalia Fahmy, a professor of political science at Long Island University in New York, said these “sweeping decision” are highly political in nature.
“Technically, they mean very little,” she told Al Jazeera.
“These political prisoners will remain in prison without any legal recourse, while Sisi and his repressive administration are trying to score points on the international scene answering to accusations on human rights violations.”
The court did not end the issue, rather, it referred it to another lower court, which is why the decision cannot be examined through the “lens of the law”, Fahmy noted.
Since the 2013 coup, a police crackdown against the Muslim Brotherhood, which maintains that it is a peaceful organisation, has left hundreds dead and tens of thousands in jail, many under draconian anti-protest laws.
The Egyptian government has since also been systematically targeting journalists, leading activists and any critics of Sisi.
Since his removal, Morsi has been tried in several different cases.
In April 2015, he was sentenced to 20 years on charges of ordering the arrest and torture of protesters in clashes outside the presidential palace in 2012.
In September 2016, he was sentenced to another 25 years in prison on charges of passing intelligence to Qatar. And in December 2017, Morsi was also sentenced to three years on charges of insulting the judiciary.