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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.

12 hours ago - Health

FDA advisory panel recommends Pfizer boosters for those 65 and older

A healthcare worker prepares a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine at the Key Biscayne Community Center on Aug. 24, 2021. Photo: Eva Marie Uzcategui/Bloomberg via Getty Images

A key Food and Drug Administration advisory panel on Friday overwhelmingly voted against recommending Pfizer vaccine booster shots for younger Americans, but unanimously recommended approving the third shots for individuals 65 and older, as well as those at high-risk of severe COVID-19.

Why it matters: While the votes are non-binding, and the FDA must still make a final decision, Friday's move pours cold water on the Biden administration's plan to begin administering boosters to most individuals who received the Pfizer vaccine later this month.

12 hours ago - World

France recalls ambassadors from U.S. and Australia over submarine deal

Secretary of State Antony Blinken (L), French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian (C), and French ambassador to the U.S. Philippe Etienne. Photo: Nicholas Kamm/AFP via Getty Images

France has taken the extraordinary step of recalling its ambassadors to the U.S. and Australia after both countries blindsided their French allies with a new military pact and submarine contract, the French Foreign Ministry announced on Friday.

The backstory: While sealing an agreement with the U.S. and U.K. to acquire nuclear submarines, Australia ripped up an existing $90 billion submarine deal with France. That led senior French officials to accuse the U.S. of a "stab in the back."