While the world watched the very close race between the two candidates for US presidency, Egyptian authorities quietly released hundreds of political prisoners, including family members of an Egyptian-American journalist who was in jail several years ago himself. The surprising decision of release triggered many questions on whether this was "a gesture of goodwill" towards the US president-elect, Joe Biden.
All 5 of my apolitical cousins that were unjustly detained as a reprisal for my US lawsuit were released after 144 days in prison— Mohamed Soltan | محمد سلطان (@soltan) November 7, 2020
I’m indebted to everyone who advocated privately & publicly to #FreeSoltans & all the unjustly detained.
Baba remains missing!
Lawyer’s statement 👇🏽 pic.twitter.com/L4D2ZYoVPc
On the same day Americans headed to election centers to cast their votes, an Egyptian court ordered the release of 416 political prisoners, most of whom were arrested in September 2019 as thousands of anti-government citizens took to the streets calling on the president Abdelfattah El-Sisi to leave.
The court order that freed hundreds of prisoners was directly linked to the outcome of US elections, which gave the advantage to the democratic nominee Joe Biden, who had already attacked El-Sisi's policies back in July, promising "no more blank checks" to the Egyptian president, who was once referred to by the US President Donald Trump as his "favorite dictator."
#Egypt has released 416 people who were arrested for protesting in September— L'Association Francophone (@afrancophonehr) November 5, 2020
Around 2,000 people have been arrested since protests began
People must not be detained for exercising their right to #freedomofexpression
We call on Egypt to release the remaining protesters in jail pic.twitter.com/gpz7p7Hoe8
Mohamed Amashah is finally home after 486 days in Egyptian prison for holding a protest sign. Arresting, torturing, and exiling activists like Sarah Hegazy and Mohamed Soltan or threatening their families is unacceptable. No more blank checks for Trump’s "favorite dictator." https://t.co/RtZkbGh6ik— Joe Biden (@JoeBiden) July 12, 2020
Additionally, the Egyptian decision follows a wave of international calls for "an immediate release of political prisoners" during the month of October, including two letters signed by over 220 European lawmakers and more than 50 US legislators, especially after Amnesty International reported mass executions in the span on 10 days last month, in which 49 political prisoners were killed.
Experts have often argued that the aggressive crackdown on dissidents in Egypt has been granted a US green light during the Trump administration, evident in American silence towards human rights violations and mass arrests in the country.
"Hopes are high... that the Biden administration will increase pressure on Egypt over human rights..."— Socialawy (@Ahmed_F) November 8, 2020
Sisi, despite his faults, is pragmatic. He was the first Arab leader to congratulate Biden. He sees the writing on the wall and wants to start building a relationship. Meanwhile, the Saudis are still waiting for who knows what to make the call. https://t.co/3rOrjGVXt8— Timothy E Kaldas (@tekaldas) November 8, 2020
However, the recent switch in Egyptian decisions might suggest an official attempt to guarantee the support of Joe Biden and his administration, particularly as Egypt continues to be one of the world's major receivers of US financial aid.
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