Posted at 09:50 AM ET, 08/30/2011

On Eid al-Fitr, hundreds of prisoners freed in Egypt, UAE, Oman


Opposition supporters struggle with members of the Egyptian army in Tahrir Square in Cairo Feb. 13, 2011. (SUHAIB SALEM - REUTERS)
As part of the widespread practice of releasing prisoners on national holidays, 230 people imprisoned in Egypt after military trials were pardoned Tuesday in a gesture made to coincide with the Muslim Eid al-Fitr holiday.

The prisoners let free for the end of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan were mostly protesters arrested in Tahrir Square, and had no prior convictions, English language Egyptian daily Al-Ahram reported.

Prisoners released on holidays are not always protesters, but they are often those the government has mistreated or should never have arrested at all.

In the United Arab Emirates during Ramadan, at least 145 Indian prisoners were pardoned by the president, English-language Web site Emirates 24/7 reported. No one among the pardoned prisoners was facing a life sentence or murder charge. Rights group Amnesty International had last year condemned authorities in the UAE for torturing and forcing confessions from Indian prisoners.

The UAE often pardons prisoners on its national holidays, including Waqfa, Eid al-Adha, the Islamic New Year, the Birth of the Prophet Muhammad, and Ascension Day. Among the newly freed are those who were serving sentences for financial crimes, immigration violations, and other nonviolent offenses.

As Oman’s supreme commander His Majesty Sultan Qaboos bin Said wished citizens a happy Eid al-Fitr, he, too, pardoned nearly 100 prisoners, the Times of Oman reported, calling it a “kind gesture to the families of the prisoners.” Amnesty International has also condemned Oman for its treatment of prisoners.

Outside the Middle East, the Georgian president just pardoned 201 prisoners in commemoration of the Assumption of Virgin Mary, including 10 women, three minors, and two foreigners, international information group Interfax reported. On Buddha’s birthday, Cambodia gives pardons to those prisoners who had “excellent behavior.” In Spain and in Latin America, prisoners whose offenses “seem excusable in some way” are often pardoned on Christmas Eve.

But for prisoners in the U.S., Christmas and other national holidays often pass them by. The only prisoner pardoned on a national holiday is a domestic turkey who escapes slaughter for Thanksgiving dinner, and is allowed to live out its life on the farm.

See photos of Eid celebrations here.

By  |  09:50 AM ET, 08/30/2011

 
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