The Egyptian government releases 41 prisoners ahead of the Eid holiday

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CAIRO – Egypt released more than three dozen prisoners on Sunday, a week before the end of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, which is typically a time of amnesty, a political party and state-run media said.

Political activists and family members confirmed the release of several high-profile prisoners.

The Reform and Development Party said the released had been political prisoners detained in custody. The English edition of the state-run newspaper Al-Ahram said a total of 41 prisoners were released.

The government’s human rights body said only in a statement that there had been a release of persons remanded in custody, but gave no details.

The move came a week before the Eid holiday, which marks the end of Ramadan. It is typically a time when prisoners are released after the president’s pardon, but the number of released was one of the largest in recent years. However, thousands of political prisoners are estimated to remain in Egypt’s prisons, many without trial.

Among those released was political activist Waleed Shawky, his wife, Heba Anees, said on social media. She posted a picture of the couple hugging.

Journalist Mohamed Salah was also released, said activist Esraa Abdel Fattah. And Nabeh Elganadi, a human rights lawyer, posted a photo with Radwa Mohamed, who was arrested after making videos posted on social media criticizing President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi.

Under broad anti-terrorism laws, Egypt’s state prosecutors have often used vague charges to renew 15-day custody for months or years, often with little evidence.

On Sunday, Sanaa Seif, sister of one of Egypt’s most high-profile detained activists, Alaa Abdel Fattah, said her brother had been subjected to new ill-treatment in prison and that he was on the 22nd day of a hunger strike.

Meanwhile, new arrests are still taking place. On Saturday, human rights lawyer Khaled Ali said members of a music group specializing in satirical songs had been arrested and accused of spreading lies after writing about rising food prices.

The government of el-Sissi – an American ally with deep economic ties to European countries – has relentlessly silenced dissidents and cracked down on independent organizations for years with arrests, detentions and prison sentences and other restrictions.

Many of the top activists involved in the 2011 uprising in Egypt are now in jail, most of them arrested under a draconian law passed in 2013 that effectively bans all street protests.

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