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Egypt frees businessman, son after 2 years of pre-trial detention

Safwan and Seif el-Din Thabet were arrested over suspected funding of Muslim Brotherhood, kept in prison while charges probed; release comes as Cairo eases silencing of critics

Composite photo showing Mariam Thabet hugging her brother Seif el-Din Thabet (left) and father Safwan Thabet following their release from Egyptian prison. (Twitter photo screenshots: used in accordance with Clause 27a of the Copyright Law)
Composite photo showing Mariam Thabet hugging her brother Seif el-Din Thabet (left) and father Safwan Thabet following their release from Egyptian prison. (Twitter photo screenshots: used in accordance with Clause 27a of the Copyright Law)

CAIRO — Egyptian authorities released a prominent businessman and his son after more than two years in pre-trial detention while officials investigated possible terrorism-related charges, their family said.

Safwan Thabet, founder and former CEO of dairy and juice producer Juhayna Food Industries, and his son Seif el-Din Thabet, walked free late Saturday, the family said.

“My father Safwan Thabet and my brother Seif el-Din Thabet are with us,” daughter Mariam Thabet wrote on Facebook. She later posted photos showing her hugging her father and brother.

State-run media also reported their release but there was no official comment.

Authorities arrested Safwan Thabet in December 2020, and he remained in detention pending an investigation into accusations that he helped fund a terrorist group — a reference to the Muslim Brotherhood, which Egypt banned as a terrorist organization.

His son, Seif, was detained two months later on the same charges, which included harming the country’s economy, according to the state-run Al-Ahram daily.

Illustrative: Egyptian protesters chant anti-Muslim Brotherhood slogans at a rally in Tahrir Square, in Cairo, Egypt, Friday, November 30, 2012. (AP Photo/Khalil Hamra)

Neither man was ever tried in court.

The freeing of the two men was the latest in a series of releases of pro-democracy activists and government critics in recent months.

Over the past year, Egypt released or pardoned dozens of detainees as the country’s human rights record came under international scrutiny when it hosted the UN climate change summit in November. The government also embarked on a dialogue with its critics.

The Egyptian government has been relentless in its silencing of dissenters and clamped down on independent organizations with arrests, detentions, prison sentences, and other restrictions.

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