Parliament committee approves controversial political pardon bill

Political prisoners jailed under former President Hosni Mubarak’s regime are one step closer to freedom after Parliament’s Constitutional and Legislative Affairs Committee advanced a draft law Tuesday.

The bill stipulates that people who committed crimes or misdemeanors or attempted to commit them to serve political ends between 1 January 1976 and 11 February 2011 should be granted blanket amnesty. Those who were indicted for assisting others in political crimes would also be pardoned.

The legislation, which was discussed over seven meetings, combines two bills submitted by MP Amer Abdel Rahim of the Construction and Development Party, the political arm of Jama’a al-Islamiya, and former presidential candidate and MP for the Socialist Popular Alliance Party Abul Ezz al-Hariry.

If approved by Parliament and the executive branch, those who were sentenced in absentia, are serving prison sentences — whether they have the right to appeal or not — or are detained pending investigations would be eligible for release with 30 days of the promulgation of the law.

Anyone who is eligible for a pardon but has not received it may file an appeal with the Cairo Criminal Court within 60 days of the issuance of the law.

Lawyers Syndicate chief Sameh Ashour criticized the draft law last month and described it as a “political crime” in statements to Al-Dostour al-Asly news website, which is not related to the independent newspaper Al-Dostour.

In a likely reference to the Muslim Brotherhood, he said the law is a form of political opportunism used by some powers to free their members who may be imprisoned for legally just reasons. He described the draft law as an attempt to tailor laws to political purposes.

Islamist groups, on the other hand, say Mubarak’s officials arrested dozens of their members who were participating in political activities, and did not give them fair trials.

Islamists constitute a majority of Parliament.

Edited translation from Al-Masry Al-Youm

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