While the release of Australian journalist Peter Greste by the Egyptian authorities was received with great relief by the global media, the plight of tens of thousands of Egyptians largely held without charge by the regime has escaped the limelight.
It is estimated that there are more than 41,000 political prisoners in Egyptian jails languishing in most brutal conditions.
Many of those detained include high profile academics and professionals as well as young activists including a large percentage of young women held since the military strongman Abdel Fattah al-Sisi deposed the democratically elected Mursi government in July 2013.
More than 500 of the detainees have been summarily tried by civilian and military courts and have been sentenced to death, news that has outraged the international community.
Peter Greste arrived in Australia to a hero’s welcome as a free man last week to be reunited with his parents and other family members.
Speaking of his time in an Egyptian prison, he said it felt like a “near-death experience”, but also like a “rebirth”.
Greste, together with his two Al Jazeera colleagues, was accused of aiding the now banned Muslim Brotherhood which came to power in free and fair elections after the 2011 Arab spring uprising
He voiced his great concern for his colleagues, Canadian-Egyptian Mohamed Fahmy and Egyptian national Baher Mohamed, who remain in prison and will be undergoing a retrial any time soon.
Greste announced that, despite his ordeal, he would continue to work as a reporter. “I’m a correspondent, that’s what I do,” he said.
It is understood that Greste was released as a result of an international campaign for his release and representations made by top level Australian government officials. Eventually the Egyptian authorities concluded that his detention was a PR disaster for the regime and it was best to release him in order to ward off further criticism.
Meanwhile people continue to get killed and injured one way or the other in Egypt.
Earlier this week more than 40 people died and dozens were injured as a result of stampede and clashes between heavy handed police and politically motivated fans at a soccer game.
The relations between Egyptian military and police and soccer fans has been tense since the 2011 popular uprising, when football supporters played a key role in ending the rule of former Egyptian dictator Hosni Mubarak. There have been clashes with security forces in and outside of stadiums, and as well as in the context of political protests, with police accused of using excessive force while confronting them.
A key backer of Sisi, Russia’s President Vladimir Putin paid a visit to Egypt earlier this week and both agreed to boost trade and military cooperation including supplying of weapons to Egypt.
The Arab backers of the Egyptian regime include UAE, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia who are wary of any democratic movement in the Middle East due to self interest, all of them being absolute monarchies..