Prison sentences against three journalists working for Al-Jazeera are believed to have been cancelled this morning after a retrial was ordered by an Egyptian court a year on from their detention.
Australian Peter Greste, Canadian-Egyptian Mohamed Fahmy and Egyptian national Baher Mohamed were arrested in Cairo on 29 December 2013 and are serving seven- to 10-year sentences on charges of aiding the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood, after President Mohammed Morsi was overthrown, and publishing false news about Egypt.
Al Jazeera has consistently said the allegations surrounding the journalists, who were sentenced in June this year, were “false” and that the case against the men was “flawed”. Six other journalists working for Al Jazeera were also tried and charged in absentia and their convictions still stand, the news organisation said.
“The Court of Cassation could order a retrial, issue a new verdict or acquit the defendants,” Negad al-Borai, Mr Fahmy’s defence lawyer told Al-Jazeera prior to the appeal.
A retrial is set to occur within a month while the three men are in custody. The case was heard in court today in 30 minutes with none of the defendants present and journalists were banned from entering to report the event.
Mohamed was sentenced to 10 years in jail after he was allegedly found with a used bullet in his possession which he claimed he had picked up from a protest site, Al Jazeera reported. Greste and Fahmy have been sentenced to seven years.
Improving relations between Egypt and Qatar, the latter of which owns the television and digital channel, is likely to play a part in the release of the defendants but the time frame is not yet known, the BBC claims.
The current Egyptian president, Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, had said that he had hoped the journalists would be deported rather than being detained and put on trial. However, he said that he will not interfere in the legal process although he holds the power to issue pardons.Reuse content