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Egypt: President 'pardons' detained rights lawyer al-Baqer and researcher Zaki

Two human rights advocates have been jailed on alleged charges spreading false news
Egyptian researcher Patrick Zaki is pictured next to a dog at his family home in Cairo, on 9 December 2021 (AFP)
Egyptian researcher Patrick Zaki is pictured next to a dog at his family home in Cairo, on 9 December 2021 (AFP)

Egypt's President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi pardoned detained rights researcher Patrick Zaki and lawyer Mohamed al-Baqer on Wednesday, according to the state-run Al-Ahram newspaper. 

Reuters said two lawyers and a source in the presidency confirmed the reports.

Neither publication provided more information on their release dates. 

The pardon comes a day after an Egyptian court sentenced Zaki to three years in prison on charges of spreading false news on social media.

Zaki, a 30-year-old LGBTQ+ rights activist, was arrested in February 2020 after he published an article on the plight of Egypt's Coptic Christian minority community, of which he is a member.

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He served 22 months in pre-trial detention before being released, pending trial. He was taken into custody again after the emergency state security court ruling in his hometown of Mansoura.

Meanwhile, Baqer was arrested in 2019 while attending the interrogation of his client, prominent dissident Alaa Abd el-Fattah.

Abd el-Fattah, a pro-democracy activist, is currently serving a five-year sentence for allegedly spreading false news about police brutality.

Baqer was sentenced to a four-year jail term for "broadcasting fake news".

His wife, Neamatallah Hisham, said in April that al-Baqer had been beaten, gagged and forced to stand in his underwear for two days while being kept in solitary confinement last week.  

Hisham said that the authorities targeted Baqer and his cellmates for defending an elderly inmate from being badly treated.

Hisham was arrested after posting on social media about the mistreatment her husband faced in prison.

Sisi has led a brutal crackdown on dissent since he toppled his democratically elected predecessor Mohamed Morsi in a coup in July 2013. More than 65,000 people, including activists and politicians, have been jailed since.

The president has consistently denied that there are political prisoners in Egypt, framing the crackdown as part of a fight against terrorism.

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