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US welcomes release of activist Douma in call with Egypt minister

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken meets with El Salvador’s Foreign Minister Alexandra Hill at the State Department in Washington.

By Kanishka Singh

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken spoke on Monday with Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry and welcomed the recent release of activist Ahmed Douma and others, the U.S. State Department said on Tuesday.

Egypt's President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi pardoned prominent activist Douma, along with a number of prisoners, state TV said on Saturday.

Douma, a leading figure in the pro-democracy revolt that toppled autocrat Hosni Mubarak, was detained a decade ago and sentenced in 2019 to 15 years in prison for rioting and attacking security forces.

"The Secretary welcomed the recent release of activist Ahmed Douma and others and reaffirmed the importance of progress on human rights to strengthening the U.S.-Egypt partnership," the U.S. State Department said in a statement.

Last month, authorities also freed rights researcher Patrick Zaki and lawyer Mohamed el-Baqer after they were pardoned by al-Sisi.

Since late 2021 Egypt has taken a number of steps that it says are aimed at addressing human rights, including amnesties for some prominent prisoners. In May, authorities launched a national dialogue intended to generate debate around the country's political, social and economic future.

Critics have dismissed the moves as cosmetic and say arrests have continued.

(Reporting by Kanishka Singh in WashingtonEditing by Marguerita Choy)