Good news from Egypt: President Mohamed Morsi has issued a blanket pardon for all protesters arrested and charged by security forces since the country's revolution last year. This means that revolutionaries, activists, bloggers, artists and an assortment of political prisoners could soon be set free.
The reliable campaigning organisation No Military Trials for Civilians estimates that more than 12,000 Egyptians have been sentenced by military tribunals since the revolution – and as many as 5,000 remain in prison. Well-known activist Mona Seif, who runs the organisation and whose brother, celebrity blogger Alaa Abd El-Fattah, had been tried by a military court, lauded the decision on Twitter.
The blanket pardon will extend to all protesters, provided they are not guilty of murder, who were arrested between the revolution that ousted Hosni Mubarak last year and the day Morsi took office on 30 June 2012. Many of those to be set free were charged by military courts for challenging the shadowy military council that took power in Mubarak's wake. Soldiers and security personnel arrested for supporting protesters are also to be pardoned.
It is not clear exactly how many prisoners Morsi's decree will affect – could be hundreds, could be thousands. What is clear is that not a single nonviolent protester or political prisoner should be left behind bars in the new Egypt.
For many Egyptians, the jury's still out on Morsi's first three months in office. But the president and longtime Muslim Brotherhood leader has done the right thing here. This decree, combined with the replacement of ossified, Mubarak-era generals, has done much to restore civilian control to the Arab world's most populous country.
Sources: Al-Jazeera, No Military Trials for Civilians, Twitter, Ahram, Telegraph, Egypt Independent