Al Jazeera journalists pardoned by Egyptian President


Rebecca Hawkes

| 24 September 2015

Al Jazeera journalists Mohammed Fahmy and Baher Mohamed have been pardoned and released from jail in Egypt ahead of the Islamic festival of Eid al-Adha.

It is unclear whether their colleague Peter Greste, who was deported to his native Australia in February but still found guilty under Egyptian law, has also been pardoned by President Sisi.

Fahmy, a Canadian, and Mohamed, an Egyptian, were sentenced to three years in prison in August after a retrial.

Following the news of the presidential pardon, Al Jazeera Media's acting director general, Mostefa Souag, said: "We're delighted for them both and their families. It is hard to celebrate though as this whole episode should not have happened in the first place. They've lost nearly two years of their lives when they were guilty of nothing except journalism."

Al Jazeera's Fahmy, Mohamed and Greste, along with their employer Al Jazeera, have consistently denied the charges of broadcasting false news and collaborating with a "terrorist organisation" a reference to the Muslim Brotherhood, which was outlawed in Egypt after the army overthrew President Mohamed Morsi in 2013.

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

"Other prisoners were pardoned due to their health conditions and on humanitarian grounds," the statement said.

Prominent activists Yara Sallam and Sanaa Seif, who were jailed in 2014 for taking part in an "illegal protest", have also been pardoned.

The absolutions came a day ahead of President Sisi's address to the UN General Assembly in New York.

Al Jazeera also called for the pardon of seven of the network's journalists who have been tried in absentia. "They may not be behind bars, but their families and careers have been affected immeasurably. We urge the Egyptian authorities to quash their cases and let them too get on with their lives," said Souag.

Adding his thanks to those who expressed outrage around the world for the prison sentences, Souag added: "We'd like to thank everyone who participated in the #FreeAJStaff campaign, from world leaders to NGOs and those who joined protests and tweeted. Campaigning does work and this day would not have been achieved without you."