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Egypt releases 950 prisoners from banned Islamic group

[JURIST] Egypt has released approximately 950 former militants from the Islamic group Gamaa Islamiya [Wikipedia backgrounder] over the last several days, according to lawyers for the prisoners. Some had been held as long as 25 years. The government began small-scale releases in the 1990s after the group's leaders declared a truce and renounced violence but never have so many been released so quickly. Approximately 2,000 are still being held [Guardian report], among the 12,000 people detained under emergency laws in Egypt [EOHR backgrounder]. Last year two assassins were released [JURIST report] after more than two decades in prison for their ties to the killing of President Anwar Sadat [CNN profile]. Egyptian Prime Minister Ahmed Nazif said last month the emergency laws would be replaced with anti-terror legislation [JURIST report].

Rights groups praised the releases [Reuters report], complaining that many of those detained under the emergency laws didn't receive fair trials or were held after their sentences were completed. Egypt's other main militant group, Islamic Jihad, has no such truce with the government, but a lawyer for Gamaa Islamiya said he expects that to change in the coming years. VOA has more.

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