Egypt Court Releases 2 Al-Jazeera Journalists

An Egyptian court on Thursday ordered the release of two jailed Al-Jazeera journalists pending retrial, after they spent more than 400 days in prison in a case that sparked worldwide outrage, AFP reported.

Mohamed Fahmy, who is Canadian and whose family hoped he would be deported, must pay 250,000 Egyptian pounds ($33,000) bail.

His colleague, Egyptian Baher Mohamed, was freed without having to pay bail, noted AFP.

The two must appear in court again on February 23.

Fahmy and Mohamed entered the packed courtroom in white prison uniforms, after Australian colleague Peter Greste was deported home earlier this month.

The three were jailed by Egypt over their coverage of the violent crackdown on Islamist protests following the military overthrow of former President Mohammed Morsi.

Egyptian authorities accused the three of providing a platform for Morsi's Muslim Brotherhood, now declared a terrorist organization.

The three were seen as having been caught up in a regional power struggle between Egypt and Qatar, which funds Al-Jazeera and had been a strong backer of Morsi.

Greste congratulated his two colleagues after their release was announced.

"This is a huge step forward. Not time to declare it over, but at least you get to go home!" the Australian wrote on Twitter, according to AFP.

A message posted on Mohamed's Twitter feed simply said: "I AM FREE".

Heather Allan, head of newsgathering at Al-Jazeera English, said just minutes after the news of their release, "We are very grateful. This is a great, great day for us and we just hope that… the whole thing is thrown out."

The case has been a major source of embarrassment for President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi as he seeks to shore up international support following a widely condemned crackdown on the opposition.

Egypt has accused Al-Jazeera in general, and its Egypt affiliate, Al-Jazeera Mubasher Misr, in particular, of doing Doha's bidding by serving as Islamists' mouthpiece at a time of a ferocious crackdown on their ranks.

The station denies any bias, saying it is simply covering Islamist protests, but recently shut down its Egypt channel as Qatar and Egypt attempt to rebuild their ties.

Source: http://www.israelnationalnews.com/News/News.aspx/191300

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