Defense lawyers said on Thursday that Egypt’s highest court has ordered a retrial of three Al Jazeera television journalists that was jailed, citing procedural flaws in last year’s trial. Reuters report:
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 questionEgypt’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.