Egypt frees two Al-Jazeera reporters
An Egyptian court has ordered the release of two Qatar-funded Al-Jazeera news channel’s journalists arrested for allegedly favoring the military-ousted President Mohamed Morsi in their reports.
The Cairo court ruled on Sunday that Mohamed Fahmy and Baher Mohamed would be released after serving more than 400 days behind the bars. The tribunal, however, did not drop the charges leveled against the native journalists.
Fahmy and Mohamed were arrested by Egyptian security forces in December 2013 along with their Australian colleague Peter Greste, who was released last week and deported home.
The three were then put on trial for allegedly reporting in favor of Egypt’s blacklisted Muslim Brotherhood organization and the nation’s first freely-elected president Morsi who was toppled in a coup led by former army chief and now president, Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi.
Meanwhile, the judge in the case, Hassan Farid, announced that the next court hearing would be held on February 23. Fahmy, who also holds a dual Canadian citizenship, was reportedly released on 250,000 Egyptian pounds (21,365 pounds) bail, while Mohamed was released with no bail.
The development comes as press reports indicated earlier this week that Fahmy and Greste would be released and subsequently deported to their country of citizenship other than Egypt, but Mohamed would be kept indefinitely in jail since Egypt is his only country of citizenship.
According to recent press reports, under international pressure to release the three journalists, al-Sisi eventually issued a decree tailored for Greste and Fahmy, allowing the deportation of foreigners but overlooking the fate of Mohamed, a producer.
After deporting Greste last week, Fahmy had to renounce his native Egyptian nationality to be cleared for release and deportation to Canada, reports said, citing an Egyptian official.
Media advocacy groups say at least 10 more journalists remain in jail across Egypt, where reporters increasingly censor themselves for fear of angering the US-backed government or being accused of Islamism.