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Egypt's President Pardons Hundreds, Including Prominent Journalist

FILE - Egyptian editor Abdel Halim Qandil of the weekly al-Karama, was one of four editors who were convicted of insulting President Hosni Mubarak, Sept. 20, 2007.

Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi has pardoned hundreds of prisoners and a prominent journalist who had criticized the country's establishment.

Journalist Abdel Halim Qandil was pardoned after receiving a three-year jail sentence following a December 2017 conviction for "insulting the judiciary," the official journal of the Arab Republic of Egypt reported Thursday.

Qandil was tried on the same charges with 17 other defendants, including ousted Muslim Brotherhood President Mohamed Morsi.

Qandil, an opponent of the Muslim Brotherhood, supported the coup against Morsi in 2013. Despite his support of el-Sissi's government, the 65-year-old journalist was detained, banned from travel, and had his newspaper confiscated. He was convicted of insulting the judiciary following a 2011 television interview when he criticized it and the military for their handling of a corruption case against former President Hosni Mubarak.

Since coming to power in 2013 after Mubarak's ouster, el-Sissi has waged a harsh crackdown on dissent, arresting thousands of mostly Islamist and secular activists and curtailing freedoms that were won after the 2011 rebellion.

The pardons repeal all verdicts and related jail sentences that were handed down since 2013 and coincide with the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, when authorities traditionally release prisoners as a goodwill gesture.

Human Rights Watch estimates at least 60,000 people have been arrested in Egypt on political grounds since el-Sissi came to power. El-Sissi has denied there are any political prisoners in the North African country.