Families angry as Jazeera reporters remain in Egypt jail

In June, three journalists, Mohammad Fahmi, Australian Peter Greste and Egyptian Bahet Mohamed were handed jail sentences ranging between seven and ten years after being convicted of "broadcasting false news".

Families angry as Jazeera reporters remain in Egypt jail
World Bulletin / News Desk
 The families of three journalists from Qatar's Al Jazeera news network who are held by Egypt on multiple charges have expressed their frustration after their relatives remained in jail despite a Thursday court decision to retry the trio.

"I'm not happy. I had hoped the three would be released today," Marwa Omarah, fiancée of Egyptian-Canadian journalist Mohamed Fahmi, told The Anadolu Agency.

"I expected the retrial verdict and won't comment on it. But I'm upset that he will remain in jail because he's innocent and didn't do anything wrong," she said.

Earlier Thursday, Egypt's highest appellate court ordered the retrial of the three Al Jazeera journalists, who had earlier been convicted of abetting terrorists and broadcasting false news.

The court accepted a request for an appeal by seven imprisoned defendants, including the three reporters in the case, which also involves 11 others who still remain at large, a judicial source said.

In June, the three journalists – Fahmi, Australian Peter Greste and Egyptian Baher Mohamed – were handed jail sentences ranging between seven and ten years each after being convicted of "broadcasting false news" and "threatening Egypt's national security."

Greste and Fahmi were both sentenced to seven years behind bars, while Mohamed was sentenced to ten years.

Three other foreign Al Jazeera correspondents – two Britons and one Dutch national – were sentenced in absentia to ten years each.

Andrew Greste, brother of Peter Greste, told AA that he was "deeply frustrated" because the court had not released his brother despite accepting the appeal request.

"They have spent one year behind bars… and the retrial could take months," he said by phone from Sydney.

Jihan Rashed, Baher's wife, said she expected "a 'not guilty' ruling, not a retrial."

"There is hope that they will be cleared in the retrial or pardoned by Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi," she added.

Greste, Fahmi and Mohamed have been held by authorities since being arrested in December 2013 from a Cairo hotel, where their equipment was also confiscated.

The arrests came days after the government declared the Muslim Brotherhood – the group from which ousted president Mohamed Morsi hails – a "terrorist" group, ratcheting up an already harsh crackdown on Morsi's supporters.

Several western governments had called for the release of Greste and Fahmi amid an international solidarity campaign launched by Al Jazeera to press for the release of its journalists.

The Egyptian government has repeatedly accused Al Jazeera of bias in favor of Morsi – an assertion the channel denies – amid tensions with Doha over Qatar's criticisms of Morsi's ouster by the army in mid-2013.

Since Morsi's overthrow, Egyptian authorities have frequently criticized western media coverage of events in Egypt.

In November, al-Sisi said that a presidential pardon for the foreign Al Jazeera journalists was under consideration.

Al-Sisi, the former army general who was declared the winner of May presidential elections, told the France 24 news channel that the journalists could be pardoned if the decision was made "in line with national security."

Earlier, al-Sisi issued a decree granting the president the right to extradite foreigners facing prosecution in Egypt.

The move was seen by some observers as a possible prelude to a presidential pardon for Greste and Fahmi.

Güncelleme Tarihi: 01 Ocak 2015, 16:27