Middle East

Egypt releases Al Jazeera journalists Fahmy and Mohamed

Media captionMohammed Fahmy and Baher Mohamed spoke of their happiness at being released

Two Al Jazeera journalists jailed in Egypt for broadcasting false news have been freed after receiving pardons from President Abdul Fattah al-Sisi.

Mohammed Fahmy, a Canadian, and Baher Mohamed, an Egyptian, were among 100 prisoners whose release was ordered.

State media said a third person from the case was also pardoned. It is not clear if this is the Australian Peter Greste, who was deported in February.

They were sentenced to three years in prison last month after a retrial.

Prosecutors accused them of collaborating with the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood after the overthrow of President Mohammed Morsi by the military in 2013.

The journalists denied the allegation and said they were simply reporting the news. Legal experts said the charges were unfounded and politically motivated.

'Long nightmare ends'

A statement from President Sisi's office issued on Wednesday said Fahmy and Mohamed were named on a decree pardoning 100 young people "who had received final court sentences, having been convicted on the grounds of violating the anti-protest law and assaulting police forces".

Media captionAl Jazeera reporter Peter Greste was recording a comedy quiz show for ABC in Australia when he heard about the journalists' release

"Other prisoners were pardoned due to their health conditions and on humanitarian grounds," it added.

Also named were the prominent activists Yara Sallam and Sanaa Seif, who were jailed in 2014 for taking part in an "illegal protest".

After their release, the two journalists were dropped off in a Cairo suburb still wearing their prison uniforms.

"The whole nightmare is over," said Mr Mohamed.

"We're going to travel the world, we're going to celebrate, we're going to party," said Mr Fahmy. "I will continue fighting for press freedom."

Al Jazeera said in a report on its website that it "continues to demand all charges and sentences against its journalists are dropped", noting that Greste and six other employees had been convicted in absentia.

The pardons were issued by Mr Sisi ahead of the Islamic festival of Eid al-Adha and a day before he travels to New York to address the UN General Assembly.

He had said he would be willing to pardon the Al Jazeera journalists once the judicial process had ended.

Fahmy, who renounced his Egyptian citizenship to qualify for deportation in February, is expected to leave for Canada following his release.

Image copyright AP
Image caption The three journalists' convictions were described as an "outrage" by Amal Clooney

The case against the journalists began in December 2013, when they were arrested at a hotel used by Al Jazeera English to report from Cairo after its bureau was raided by police.

The journalists were initially convicted in June 2014 after a trial that was widely condemned. Greste and Fahmy were sentenced to seven years in prison, while Mohamed was given a 10-year sentence after also being found guilty of possessing a spent bullet casing.

In January, Egypt's Court of Cassation ordered a retrial after ruling that the original court had been "hasty in pronouncing its verdict".

Their convictions at retrial on 29 August were described as an "outrage" and an embarrassment for President Sisi by Amal Clooney, one of Fahmy's lawyers.

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