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Egyptians Unimpressed By Morsi's Mass Pardon Of Arab Spring Inmates



CAIRO –Among the central demands of Egypt's pro-democracy movement was for Mohamed Morsi to set free all those imprisoned during the many protests linked to the January 25th Revolution. Yet when reports that the new Egyptian president had marked his first 100 days in office by issuing a sweeping amnesty decree for all such political prisoners, there was no rush of celebrations -- or congratulations. 

Al Wafd newspaper first reported word of the decree late Monday, which pardons all crimes committed between January 20, 2011 and June 30, 2012 in the aim of supporting the revolution. The only exception mentioned is the case of attempted murder.

But the reaction was as notable as the news itself: few articles in local media, no buzz on Facebook and only few comments by political leaders circulated on Twitter. In fact, the most famous pro-revolution Facebook page "We Are All Khaled Said" (with some 2.5 million followers) did not report the decision of the president, instead posting pictures and slogans honoring the revolution's martyrs, a way to tell Morsi that his decision fell far short.

Hamdin Sabbahi, the socialist candidate who came in third in the presidential elections tweeted, "It's our duty to thank the president for setting free the revolution's political prisoners. It is a step on the right path."

Another ex-candidate, Khaled Ali, confirmed that the president's decision is what Egyptians need to meet the demands of the revolution.

Nevertheless, both the humorist Bassem Youssef and the writer Belal Fadl, two of the most-followed Egyptians on Twitter, did not immediately comment on the decree. Amidst this unusual quiet, the January 25th portal reported the reaction of former member of parliament Bassel Adel, who said Morsi was using the pardon to hide his failure to keep his 53 promises for his 100 first days in power.

Others noted that the decree's open-ended language may make it hard to actually carry out the mass pardon. Nevertheless, human rights lawyer Tarek Abdel Aal of the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights, which has worked on behalf of many of the detainees, told the Guardian: "We should use the generalisations in the language of the decree to our advantage. The decree states that the pardon extends to all those detained in association with the revolution, and that gives us room to manoeuvre."

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