CAIRO: Al Jazeera English journalists Mohamed Fahmy and Baher Mohamed and four others have been released pending their trial in what is locally known as the Marriot Cell case.
Canadian citizen Mohamed Fahmy will have to pay 250,000 EGP ($32,700) bail, and Egyptian citizen Baher Mohamed has been released to his home, pending a retrial of the case. The next trial date has been set for Feb. 23.
“I’m very happy, today I’ll return to my children and tell them Dad will come home,” Baher Mohamed’s wife Jehan Rashed told The Cairo Post, adding that she was not certain when he would be released, that it may be tonight or tomorrow morning.
Their colleague Peter Greste, an Australian-Latvian dual citizen was deported a few weeks ago. Mohamed Fahmy renounced his Egyptian citizenship in late December, his family announced last week, prompting speculations that he would be released “within hours” by the Al Jazeera network, especially after Canadian officials were observed meeting with prosecution officials.
— Peter Greste (@PeterGreste) February 12, 2015
Mohamed Fahmy and Baher Mohamed are among 20 accused in the case, on charges of “spreading false news” and promoting the Muslim Brotherhood. After initial sentences of between seven and 10 years in prison last summer, the Court of Cassation granted the request for a retrial in the fall. During today’s first retrial hearing, the lawyers of both journalists requested their release. Fahmy’s lawyer Khaled Abu Bakr asked for his release on health grounds, noting a broken arm and hepatitis C, Youm7 reported. Fahmy also spoke during the hearing, where he said he is happy for the release of their third colleague Australian Peter Greste, and that he asked “equal treatment” to all defendants, according to BBC reporter @OrlaGuerin, who was tweeting inside the court.
— Borzou Daragahi (@borzou) February 12, 2015
According to @OrlaGuerin, Fahmy also said he was asked by senior official to drop his Egyptian nationality in order to end the case.
The late official deportation decision for Fahmy raised concerns among his families, who started an online campaign with hashtag #HarperCallEgypt to try to push the Prime Minister Stephen Harper to lobby for his release.
An intensive campaign also started to call for the release of Baher, amid limited chances for him to be freed despite open chances in front of his two colleagues with foreign passports.
Greste was and Fahmy is eligible to be deported per a decree issued by Sisi in December that allows extradition of non-Egyptian prisoners to be tried or serve sentences in their other countries if it is deemed to serve Egyptian interests.
Both Australian and Canada, however, have spoken in clear support of their citizens and said they committed no crime.
Baher’s treatment along with other Egyptian prisoners raised outrage of different treatment between local and foreign inmates in Egypt, despite facing similar charges.
In January, the Court of Cassation, Egypt’s highest court, said the initial rulings are “marred with deficiencies in cause and lacked evidences,” in its explanation of the ruling granting the appeal.
The December arrest of the trio, the court said, was ”void” and prior investigations were “unserious.”
In a Wednesday statement, the Committee to Protect Journalists called on Egyptian authorities to drop the charges against Fahmy and Baher.