Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi pardoned 82 prisoners, mostly university students jailed for protesting, state news agency MENA said on Thursday.
Sisi had promised in October to amend a protest law that human rights groups say severely restricts protest rights and hinted at possible pardons for young people who had taken part in demonstrations against his rule.
Thursday's pardons were the first phase of a wider effort, MENA said. Sisi does not have the authority to interfere in Egypt's judiciary but can issue pardons.
The pardoned include Islam al-Behairy, a television show host and Islamic reform advocate sentenced to a year in prison for criticising canonical religious works, presidency spokesman Alaa Youssef said.
A law requiring permission from the Interior Ministry for any public gathering of more than 10 people is strictly enforced and has largely succeeded in ending the kind of mass demonstrations that helped unseat two presidents in three years. Critics condemn it as unconstitutional.
About the author
Research Associate at Center for Islam and Global Affairs (CIGA) at Istanbul Sabahattin Zaim University