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Egyptian activist and journalist Esraa Abdel Fattah speaks on the phone at her home after being released from prison on July 18. Photo: Mohamed El Raai/picture alliance via Getty Images

Egyptian authorities released three activists and three journalists on Sunday who have been kept in pre-trial detention for months, in some cases years, without trial, the Associated Press reports.

Why it matters: The authorities' release of the prisoners comes days after the U.S. expressed concern regarding human rights abuses in Egypt.

  • On July 14, State Department spokesperson Ned Price said the U.S. is "concerned by continued detentions, indictments, and harassment of Egyptian civil society leaders, academics, and journalists."

The big picture: The investigations against the six prisoners are still ongoing, and they face charges of "disseminating false news and misuse of social media platforms to joining a terrorist group, a reference to the Muslim Brotherhood," according to AP.

  • Esraa Abdel-Fattah, an activist and writer, was arrested in October 2019 after playing a "crucial role in the 2011 pro-democracy uprising."
  • Mahienour el-Masry is a prominent rights lawyer known for her "activism in labor movements," per AP.
  • Journalist Gamal al-Gamal was arrested earlier this year and was known for his columns criticizing President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi's government, according to AP.
  • Journalists Mustafa el-Aasar and Moataz Wadnan were also released Sunday after being held in pre-trial detention since 2018.
  • Abdel-Nasser Ismail, "deputy head of the Socialist People’s Alliance Party," had been detained without trial for nearly two years, per AP.

State of play: Last week, Egyptian authorities indicted Hossam Bahgat, a leading investigative journalist and human rights advocate in Egypt, the Middle East Eye reports.

  • Bahgat, whose trial will start Sept. 7, faces charges related to his social media use, per Middle East Eye.
  • Price specifically referenced Bahgat's case at the press briefing, saying that "we have communicated to the Egyptian Government our strong belief that individuals such as Hossam Bahgat should not be targeted for expressing their views peacefully."
  • When asked about arms sales to Egypt, Price noted that President Biden has raised human rights issues with al-Sisi before and added that "human rights across the board is something we look at very closely" when making such decisions.

Go deeper

Sep 13, 2021 - World

Pelosi "deeply concerned" about Saudi aid worker torture allegations

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi during a news conference at the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday. Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said Sunday she's "deeply concerned" over allegations that an aid worker in Saudi Arabia has been tortured while in detention.

Driving the news: Pelosi's call comes ahead of an appeal hearing in Red Crescent Society worker Abdulrahman al-Sadhan's criminal case, due to be held Monday.

Kate Marino, author of Markets
55 mins ago - Economy & Business

Omicron outbreaks were bad for business in January

Data: New York Federal Reserve Bank; Chart: Axios Visuals

Emerging anecdotal evidence shows just how hard the recent rise in COVID-19 cases hit businesses in early January — but that hasn't hurt some business leaders’ longer-term views on their companies' prospects.

Why it matters: Increasingly, the economic recovery has come in fits and starts that move in tandem with new peaks in cases. Look no further than the thousands of cancelled flights and shuttered Broadway theaters in the wake of the Omicron variant's spread over the last few months.

Tina Reed, author of Vitals
1 hour ago - Health

The shifting definition of fully vaccinated

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

The definition of what it means to be "fully vaccinated" is evolving even as the CDC has remained careful not to officially change it.

Why it matters: CDC officials have been balancing the job of convincing Americans who've already gotten two doses of the importance of boosters with getting many Americans who still need their first doses to get their shots at all.