CAIRO: Australian journalist Peter Greste has been granted a presidential pardon and is en route to his home in Sydney, an Egyptian official told state-owned MENA Sunday.
The journalist was jailed with two other colleagues from Al Jazeera English on Dec. 29, 2013, and tried on charges of broadcasting false news. The group was convicted in late 2014 of the charges, but an appeal had been pending in the case.
His colleagues Mohamed Fahmy, a dual Egyptian/Canadian citizen, and Baher Mohamed, an Egyptian, are still accused of belonging to a “terrorist organization that calls for disrupting the law, preventing state institutions from exercising their work, attacking citizens’ personal freedoms and harming unity and social peace.”
Since the ouster of Mohamed Morsi in July 2013, relations with Qatar and Egypt have soured, and Al Jazeera, a Qatari-owned network, has been perceived in Egypt as the mouthpiece for the Muslim Brotherhood, which was designated as a terrorist group four days before the journalists’ arrest.
Investigations reported that the suspects rented two suites in a Cairo hotel as a broadcasting studio where they edited media materials to produce fabricated shots suggesting that the state is collapsing into a civil war. In the trial, footage collected from the room was broadcast in court, and included a Sky News documentary on horses, as well as original footage the journalists had shot about Egyptian football players.
The official said the Egyptian Ministry of Foreign Affairs coordinated with the Australian authorities that Greste would be extradited to Sydney Sunday afternoon.
The case has sparked considerable media outcry with many international organizations calling for the release of the journalists, and in mid-January Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry visited Nairobi, causes a local protest of local Kenyan journalists calling for the release of the three.
Marwa Omara, the fiancée of Mohamed Fahmy, told Reuters Sunday that she was hopeful he would be deported soon.
In the weeks prior to the fourth anniversary of the January 25 Revolution, President Sisi had announced he would issue a number of pardons for some in jails, but had refrained to give details about who would be released.