Egyptian President Mohammad Mursi’s decision to pardon protesters detained over the 2011 revolution is a positive step but the vague wording could see some left behind bars, rights activists said on Tuesday.
“It’s a very good decision but the distinction between a political detainee and a criminal one is fundamentally problematic,” said Heba Morayef, a Cairo-based researcher with Human Rights Watch.
On Monday, a decree published on the presidency’s official Facebook page announced an amnesty for deeds “committed with the aim of supporting the revolution and bringing about its objectives in the period January 25, 2011 to June 30, 2012, with the exception of crimes of murder.”
The decree “allows for wriggle room and leaves the door open for [authorities] to say these are not revolutionaries,” Morayef told AFP.
The amnesty is “a step in the right direction but it is not enough,” said longtime political activist Wael Khalil.
He believes Mursi should have ordered the retrial of those convicted of crimes. “That would have been the principled thing to do,” Morayef agreed.
Mursi’s amnesty declaration covers protesters who already have convictions and those who are still under investigation or are on trial, according to the decree. “The decision is very vague,” said Maha Mamoun of the group No to Military Trials of Civilians.
“The problem is not so much with the [crackdowns during] demonstrations, but also with the random street arrests,” she told the independent daily Al-Shorouk.
Several particularly bloody clashes in the areas surrounding Tahrir Square – the epicenter of the Egyptian revolt — saw the largest crackdowns on protesters by security forces since the Egyptian revolution began January 25 last year.
Hundreds have been released during the military-led transition but many hundreds still remain behind bars.
The decree comes 100 days after Mursi, who emerged from the powerful Muslim Brotherhood, took office in June to become the first freely elected president of Egypt and its first civilian head of state.