Monday 18 December 2017

Canadian journalist released from Egyptian prison

Press Association

Canadian Al-Jazeera journalist Mohamed Fahmy has been released from an Egyptian prison, pending a retrial.

Mr Fahmy's brother tweeted that he was let out early today after more than a year in jail. He posted 33,000 dollars' (£21,500) bail following a court decision to allow him to walk free.

It was not clear if another Al-Jazeera journalist, Baher Mohammed, was also being released.

Mr Fahmy spent more than 400 days in detention after he was charged with terrorism for providing the Muslim Brotherhood, now declared a terrorist organisation, with a platform.

His next court hearing is February 23. He must check in at a police station every day until then.

Australian Peter Greste, who was tried with his two colleagues, was deported home two weeks ago.

Mr Fahmy's release came after a Cairo appeal court ordered him and Mr Mohammed freed on bail yesterday.

If authorities aim to eventually exonerate both of them, along with Mr Greste and a dozen others prosecuted on the same charges in the case, their strategy for doing so remains murky and slow as they apparently seek a face-saving way out of a legal process that has drawn international criticism of Egyptian justice.

But the decision indicated the court was moving ahead with a retrial of Mr Fahmy and Mr Mohammed and was greeted with tears of joy and relief by their relatives in the Cairo court.

Al-Jazeera called the decision "a small step in the right direction" but said the court should dismiss "this absurd case" and release both journalists unconditionally.

Since the ousting of the Brotherhood's President Mohammed Morsi, Egypt has been cracking down heavily on his supporters and the journalists were accused of being mouthpieces for the group and falsifying footage to suggest that Egypt faces civil war.

They rejected the charges against them, saying they were simply reporting the news.

The journalists were convicted by a lower court on terrorism-related charges and sentenced to at least seven years in prison. The Court of Cassation, in ordering a retrial, said their conviction was based on "flawed evidence" and that the trial was marred by violations of the defendants' rights, according to details of its ruling made public this week.

President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi had rejected calls from the United States and other Western governments to pardon or commute the sentences. In July, he acknowledged that the heavy sentences had a "very negative" impact on his country's reputation and that he wished they had never been put on trial.

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