Thursday, January 1, 2015
Egypt's court of cassation orders retrial of Al-Jazeera journalists
Creste, Fahmi and Mohammed in court during their earlier process. (Photo Reuters)
Egypt's highest court has ordered a retrial of three jailed journalists working for Al Jazeera television, citing procedural flaws in last year's trial, defense lawyers said on Thursday. Australian Peter Greste, Canadian-Egyptian Mohamed Fahmy and Egyptian national Baher Mohamed were sentenced to seven to 10 years on charges including spreading lies to help a "terrorist organization" -- a reference to the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood.The trial was condemned by human rights groups and Western governments and prompted the United Nations to question Egypt's judicial independence. The case has also contributed to tensions between Egypt and Qatar, where Al Jazeera is based.
The reporters' imprisonment is a thorny issue for President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi as he seeks to prove his commitment to democratic reforms. He could pardon or deport them but has so far refused to intervene, citing the independent judiciary.
Relatives' hopes the retrial decision would include an immediate release on bail for the men, held for over a year in the tough Tora Prison, were disappointed, but their lawyers can apply for bail at the first retrial hearing. Two defense attorneys said the new proceedings could begin within a month although the judge had not set a date.
"They will not be released until they appear before the new chamber, which will decide whether to release them or not," said Mostafa Nagy, who represents Greste and Mohamed.
The journalists say they were simply reporting the news when arrested in December 2013.
Mursi's ouster soured ties between Egypt and Qatar, which backed the Brotherhood. But recent Saudi-led efforts to repair relations had raised hopes the journalists might be freed.
"I hope relations keep getting better (between Qatar and Egypt) for those poor, innocent journalists who got stuck in the middle," Fahmy's brother Adel said at the court.