Egypt: Why Sisi the Inhumane freed 'celebrity-detainees'

Egypt: Why Sisi the Inhumane freed 'celebrity-detainees'
Sisi's pardon of one hundred political prisoners, including al-Jazeera journalists, is a gambit to appease the West and head-off criticism ahead of his visit to New York, argues Wael Kandil.
4 min read
25 Sep, 2015
Al-Jazeera journalist Mohamed Fahmy was released along with 100 other prisoners [AFP]

All the detainees released by the Sisi regime deserve freedom. But tens of thousands of others wrongfully imprisoned in the dark dungeons of Egypt deserve the same, so what about them?

Interesting about the list of the lucky pardoned one hundred is that most of them are famous in the Western media or are stars of the popular protest movement.

Interesting too is that the statement issued by the presidency was too keen to describe each released prisoner as a "political activist".

Sisi's move cannot be seen in isolation from the significance of the timing, however. It comes before the globe-trotting general sets off for the US, and after his security services caused an international scandal by massacring Mexican tourists using Apache attack helicopters, which were incidentally the fruit of his previous pilgrimage to New York.

Sisi found no better way to pay for his airfare to New York than with the freedom of one hundred detainees.

The timing also coincides with the events in Burkina Faso, which have become a benchmark for assessing what has happened in Egypt.

A military coup staged by a Burkinabe version of Sisi was quickly rejected by the African Union, the National Army and major world capitals.

Ultimately, the elected president and his government were restored and the coup leader apologised. However, there have been many comparisons made between the absence of the world's conscience in dealing with the military coup in Egypt, and the opposite when it came to the coup in Burkina Faso.

Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi found no better way to pay for his airfare to New York than with the freedom of one hundred detainees, known in the West for their association with activism for democracy and human rights.

Of course, it was inevitable that Egyptian-Canadian al-Jazeera English journalist Mohamed Fahmy would be at the top of the list of the celebrity-detainees released by Sisi.

We feel joy for all those included in the presidential pardon. Those who did not shed tears of joy when Sanaa Seif embraced her mother Laila Seif have no heart.

But in return for those one hundred, Sisi detained many more, including 16-year-old Khaled Mohammed El-Beltagy, imprisoned before Sanaa Seif or Yara Sallam even left their cells.

This is the despicable game of the tyrants, who do not want to give people with rival political attitudes any opportunity to meet.

The game proceeded as follows: A number of celebrity liberal and leftist prisoners were released, at the same time the regime stepped up its tormenting of their Islamist counterparts.

Sisi proceeded in provoking the Islamists to pour their anger against the regime and those whom the regime has set free. His goal: For a battle to ensue between those happy with the restoration of their comrades' freedom, and those saddened by the loss of the freedom of their relatives and friends.

The regime wanted a social media war to erupt and divisions to be rekindled, to finish off any attempt to bring together the forces that together took part in the January 25 revolution.

     The goal is to appease the world but not to do right by Egypt.

Yet, despite the Sisi regime's best laid plans, none of the two sides took the poisoned bait and engaged in ideological warfare, as had been planned.

The humanity of January 25 triumphed, and those who felt joy pre-empted the release of their comrades by railing against the criminal regime, demanding freedom for more than 50,000 wrongfully-imprisoned detainees.

The relatives of those excluded from the amnesty responded in kind. They felt joy for the release of only two out of each thousand prisoners, and insisted on freedom for all people, wishing a quick demise for those behind this McCarthian hell.

Again, congratulations for all those who have been deservedly freed, even by an amnesty that reeks of racist contempt and fascism. And even if the goal of placing the names of Yara Sallam, Sanaa Seif and Omar Hazeq on the list was just to add a humane touch on a political gambit meant to appease the world but not to do right by Egypt.

This is an edited translation from our Arabic edition.

Opinions contained within this article do not necessarily represent those of al-Araby al-Jadeed, its editorial board or staff.