Al Jazeera journalists who were sentenced to three years in prison in a retrial last month for operating without press licence and broadcasting material harmful in Egypt, have been released after President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi pardoned them along with scores of others, following criticism of his government for jailing opponents.
The TV channel journalist were Canadian Mohamed Fahmy and Egyptian Baher Mohamed. A Canadian government spokesperson said, the country was pleased with the pardon and it would help arrange Fahmy’s departure from Egypt. “Our families have suffered so much since the beginning of this trial and we’re very happy that President Sisi took this action and released us,” Mohamed Fahmy said.
Fahmy said, he will continue fighting for the freedom of the press. “I know there are other defendants who are still in prison related to this case,” Fahmy said. According to security sources and Egypt’s state news agency, they prisoners include those who violated a 2013 law banning protests without a permit, as well as some who were sick.
“This comes in the framework of President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi’s initiative to release a number of youth, which he launched…in December,” it said, quoting presidential sources.
“While these pardons come as a great relief, it is ludicrous that some of these people were even behind bars in the first place,” Amnesty International said, in a statement. “Those pardoned today include only a fraction of the hundreds of people across the country who have been arbitrarily arrested, and unlawfully detained,” Amnesty added.