Friday 24 November 2017

Egypt frees last two Al-Jazeera reporters locked up for 400 days

Magdy Samaan

Two Al-Jazeera journalists jailed in Egypt were awaiting release last night after being granted bail, bringing an end to more than 400 days of imprisonment.

Mohamed Fahmy and Baher Mohamed's reactions to the decision were obscured by the bars of their caged dock, but their families' relief was plain to see, as the courtroom echoed with cheers.

"My children can smile again," said Mr Mohamed's wife, Jehan Rashed. She had given birth to a son while her husband was in prison, and has been left to look after their three young children alone. Mr Fahmy's fiancée Marwa Omara, who had promised to marry him in prison, wept tears of joy. The decision to release the pair was made as their retrial began yesterday, after Egypt's highest court called earlier convictions for helping terrorists and spreading false information "hasty".

Mr Fahmy and Mr Mohamed were arrested with two colleagues, including the Australian reporter Peter Greste, in December 2013, and later jailed for between seven and 10 years.

The case had become a diplomatic headache for Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, the Egyptian president, attracting repeated condemnation from Western governments at a time when he is trying to re-establish the country as an accepted world player, despite his regime's ascent to power through a military coup.

The softening of Egypt's stance on the case also echoes the country's shifting relations with its Gulf neighbours. The Al-Jazeera network is owned by Qatar, which was locked in a bitter feud with Egypt at the time of the journalists' arrest.

Al Jazeera journalist Mohamed Fahmy
Al Jazeera journalist Mohamed Fahmy

But relations have since thawed as Qatar has mended its ties with Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, both key financial backers of Mr Sisi's government. Mr Fahmy will have to put up €25,000 as a bail surety, but Mr Mohamed, and several students tried alongside them, do not have to pay a fee.

Mr Greste was released on February 1.

Under the terms of a new decree, foreign defendants are eligible for deportation to their home countries. (© Daily Telegraph London)

Irish Independent

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