Egypt court orders release of Al Jazeera journalists

Egypt court orders release of Al Jazeera journalists

[JURIST] An Egyptian court on Thursday ordered the release on bail of two Al Jazeera journalists being retried on terror charges. Baher Mohammed and Mohammed Fahmy have spent more than 400 days in jail after a court found them guilty for falsifying news reports and associating with the Muslim Brotherhood [BBC profile; JURIST news archive]. The men were sentenced to prison terms of 10 years for Mohammed and seven years for Fahmy, before Egypt’s Court of Cassation ordered a retrial [JURIST report] last month. The men were arrested in December 2013 along with fellow Al Jazeera journalist and Australian national Peter Greste. Earlier this month, Greste was released [JURIST report] from the Cairo detention facility and deported, under a law allowing the deportation of foreign nationals to their home countries. Greste, along with rights organizations [AI report], and Canada’s Minister of State, Lynne Yelich, continue to push for the immediate and unconditional release of Fahmy and Mohamed. Fahmy, who held Canadian and Egyptian citizenship, renounced his Egyptian citizenship at the suggestion of security officials to qualify for deportation to Canada. Mohammed holds Egyptian citizenship only. Al Jazeera stated [press release]: “The focus though is still on the court reaching the correct verdict at the next hearing by dismissing this absurd case and releasing both these fine journalists unconditionally.” The retrial will resume on February 23.

Political conflict in Egypt has been ongoing since the 2011 revolution [JURIST backgrounder] that ousted former president Hosni Mubarak [BBC profile]. Unrest led the Egyptian government to enact a law [JURIST report] banning unauthorized protests in November 2013. Since the law was passed, numerous demonstrators have been detained, especially those affiliated with ousted former president Mohammad Morsi [BBC backgrounder] and his Muslim Brotherhood party. Last week an Egyptian court sentenced [JURIST report] 230 protesters to life in prison, finding them guilty of taking part in violent clashes between protesters and security forces in Cairo in December 2011. Last month Egyptian security forces arrested [JURIST report] 516 Muslim Brotherhood supporters. The week before that an Egyptian court ordered a retrial [JURIST report] for 152 Muslim Brotherhood supporters sentenced in a mass trial last year. In December an Egyptian criminal court sentenced 188 Muslim Brotherhood supporters to death [JURIST report] for an August 2013 attack on a police station in the governorate of Giza, widely known as the “Kerdasa massacre.”