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Egypt

Amnesty International Blasts Egypt, Says Sisi Pardons Just A Guise

Though the Egyptian president has authorized the release of some 100 political prisoners, the global human rights organization says thousands more are languishing inside prisons for doing no more than engaging in peaceful protest.

Pardoned Al Jazeera journalist Mohamed Fahmy in Cairo on Aug. 29
Pardoned Al Jazeera journalist Mohamed Fahmy in Cairo on Aug. 29

CAIRO — Human rights organization Amnesty International has advised the international community not to be fooled by President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi's "veneer of reform and empty promises."

Sisi issued presidential pardons for 100 young people on the occasion of Eid al-Adha, including activists Yara Sallam and Sanaa Seif, and journalists Mohamed Fahmy and Baher Mohamed, who were sentenced to three years last August in the internationally condemned Al Jazeera case.

Some of them were released immediately, and others after a slight delay, such as Salwa Mehrez, whose name was listed wrongly in the presidential decree. But in a statement Monday, the international rights organization specifically highlighted the cases of seven activists who still remain behind bars.

Nahed Abdel Hamid, Momen Abdel Tawab, Menna Mostafa, Abrar al-Anany, Mamdouh Gamal Eddin, Mohamed Hossam Eddin and Asmaa Abdel Aziz Shehata are still in prison due to bureaucratic issues, according to lawyer Ragia Omran.

Amnesty argued that the decree clearly states that all those pardoned should be released immediately unless they have been sentenced in other cases.

Said Boumedouha, Deputy Middle East and North Africa director at Amnesty International, says that most of those pardoned "should never have been locked up in the first place, because they were peacefully exercising their rights to freedom of expression and assembly."

He adds, "Given the authorities' intolerance of peaceful dissent, the space vacated in prison cells by those freed in the pardon will be filled up again all too soon," as political prisoners are used as "bargaining chips," and only released when politically expedient, or to deflect international criticism of Egypt's human rights record.

There were also others not included in the pardons who should have been, Amnesty asserts, including Alaa Abd Al Fattah, Ahmed Douma, Ahmed Maher and Mohamed Adel, as well as Mahienour al-Massry, detained photojournalist Mahmoud Abu Zeid (known as Shawkan) and student Mahmoud Hussein.

"Amnesty International is aware of thousands more people across the country who have been languishing in Egyptian prisons under President al-Sisi's rule, including other journalists and activists," the organization's statement reads. It was released just hours before Sisi was scheduled to address the UN General Assembly in New York.

"If the President wants to convince the UN General Assembly in his speech today that Egypt's appalling human rights record is a thing of the past, he will have to implement meaningful reforms," Boumedouha says.

He urges the United States and France to halt the transfer of small arms and ammunition to Egypt, "and other policing equipment used to commit mass violations" against protesters.

"The international community must not let Sisi and the Egyptian government off the hook because of the recent pardons."

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How U.S. Airlines Are Doing Cuba's Dirty Work On American Soil

American and Southwest Airlines have been refusing to allow Cubans on board flights if they've been blacklisted by the government in Havana.

How U.S. Airlines Are Doing Cuba's Dirty Work On American Soil

Boarding a plane in Camaguey, Cuba

Santiago Villa

On Sunday, American Airlines refused to let Cuban writer Carlos Manuel Álvarez board a Miami flight bound for Havana. It was at least the third time this year that a U.S. airline refused to let Cubans on board to return to their homeland after Havana circulated a government "blacklist" of critics of the regime. Clearly undemocratic and possibly illegal under U.S. law, the airlines want to make sure to cash in on a lucrative travel route, writes Colombian journalist Santiago Villa:

-OpEd-

Imagine for a moment that you left your home country years ago because you couldn't properly pursue your chosen career there. It wasn't easy, of course: Your profession is not just singularly demanding, but even at the top of the game you might not be assured a stable or sufficient income, and you've had to take on second jobs, working in bars and restaurants.

This chosen vocation is that of a writer or journalist, or perhaps an artist, which has kept you tied to your homeland, often the subject of your work, even if you don't live there anymore.

Since leaving, you've been back home several times, though not so much for work. Because if you did, you would be followed in cars and receive phone calls to let you know you are being watched.

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