Egypt on Monday began to release detainees held by the military following a decree last week by President Mohammed Mursi.
Mursi had announced Thursday night that he has pardoned 572 military prisoners who were detained in connection with the 25 January revolution or protests during the transitional period to mark the beginning of the Islamic holy month of Ramadan.
“Prison authorities have begun releasing the detainees,” a security official told AFP news agency on Monday.
Their release comes on a public holiday marking the 1952 military coup d’etat that ultimately led to the overthrow of the monarchy in Egypt.
The Egyptian president had ordered the formation of a committee to review the cases of civilians tried by the military.
A total of 11,879 Egyptians have been detained by the military since last year’s uprising that toppled Hosni Mubarak, according to figures issued by the committee. Of these, 9,714 have since been released.
Mursi expressed his hope that this Ramadan, which began on Friday morning, will be “a month of wellness for Egypt, the Arab and Islamic world, and the whole world,” Egypt Independent reported.
In the speech, Mursi called on Egyptians to set an example for the world in production, stability, security, and support for the poor. He also affirmed Egypt’s commitment to its “sister countries” in Africa and promised to work with the African Union to develop and stabilize the continent.
Meanwhile, activists and international rights groups have repeatedly called for the end to military trials of civilians which they say do not meet the requirements of independence and impartiality.
“International law is crystal-clear on this: no civilian, regardless of the crime, should be tried by a military court,” Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East and North Africa director at Human Rights Watch, said last week.
She urged Mursi to take a “principled human rights stance and pardon all civilians convicted by military tribunals.”
Mursi was sworn in on June 30, taking over from a military council which oversaw the transition from Mubarak’s rule.
But the president has been locked in a power struggle with the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces which issued a constitutional declaration − that acts as a temporary charter − giving the military sweeping powers.