by Marwa Yahya
CAIRO, July 21 (Xinhua) -- Amid rising fears over the spread of the COVID-19 epidemic especially in Egypt's crowded prisons, the Egyptian authorities have expanded the release of prisoners, according to experts.
The measure, which is helpful to prevent transmission of diseases during the pandemic crisis, will exert positive impacts on the life of prisoners, said Salah Salem, member of the National Council for Human Rights (NCHR).
On Tuesday, Egypt's Prisons Authority ordered the release of 2,075 inmates on the occasion of Eid Al-Adha, or Feast of Sacrifice, which also coincides with the imminent 69th anniversary of the July 23, 1952 Revolution that ended the monarchy rule in modern Egypt and marked its transformation into a republic.
The prisoners were released with a presidential pardon. According to the Egyptian constitution, the president can issue pardons for prisoners who had received final and unappealable court verdicts in certain crimes except for arms trafficking, terrorism, revenge killing, and heroin trading.
Usually, the president issues a decree for pardoning prisoners on major national and religious public holidays and feasts, including two religious Muslim feasts, the holy month of Ramadan, and the July 23 Revolution anniversary.
"The Interior Ministry releases large numbers of inmates in at least six annual occasions," Salem told Xinhua.
Most of the released prisoners have finished serving two-thirds of their period in detention centers, and their earlier freedom is an opportunity for rehabilitation and integration into the society, he said.
The NCHR is a national independent institution whose members are elected by the House of Representatives, the lower chamber of the parliament.
Salem explained that "the prison populations are particularly exposed to infectious diseases like COVID-19 and risk higher transmission rates, especially in overcrowded prisons."
Mohamed Moussa, a member of the Senate, the upper chamber of the parliament, agreed that "the growing liberation of the prisoners will reduce the prison population and prevent disease transmission."
The authorities as well consider releasing detainees held in pre-trial detention, and those who are especially vulnerable to the disease, such as with underlying medical conditions, and the elderly, he said.
Meanwhile, Alaa Shalaby, chairman of the Arab Organization for Human Rights, said the release of prisoners has been on the rise since a law in 2018 was released.
On Jan. 9, 2018, the Egyptian parliament approved a law allowing the conditional release of prisoners who finish spending half of their punishment period.
The law constituted an important breakthrough in the issue of prisons that had been perplexed over long years, he said.
Having visited Egyptian prisons 14 times in 16 months, Shalaby reiterated the conditions of the country's central and public prisons have significantly improved. Enditem