Egypt plans retrial for jailed journalists

Egypt’s highest court has ordered a retrial of three jailed journalists working for Al Jazeera television, citing procedural flaws in last year’s trial.

Egypt plans retrial for jailed journalists

Australian Peter Greste, Canadian-Egyptian Mohamed Fahmy, and Egyptian national Baher Mohamed were sentenced to seven to 10 years on charges including spreading lies to help a “terrorist organisation” — a reference to the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood.

The trial was condemned by human rights groups and Western governments and prompted the UN to question Egypt’s judicial independence.

The case has also contributed to tensions between Egypt and Qatar, where Al Jazeera is based.

The reporters’ imprisonment is a thorny issue for President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi as he seeks to prove his commitment to democratic reforms. He could pardon or deport them but has so far refused to intervene, citing the independent judiciary.

Relatives’ hopes the retrial decision would include an immediate release on bail for the men, held for over a year in the tough Tora Prison, were disappointed, but their lawyers can apply for bail at the first retrial hearing. Two defence attorneys said the new proceedings could begin within a month although the judge had not set a date.

“They will not be released until they appear before the new chamber, which will decide whether to release them or not,” said Mostafa Nagy, who represents Greste and Mohamed.

The journalists say they were simply reporting the news when arrested in December 2013.

Greste’s parents, grim-faced, left quickly after the hearing at the High Court in Cairo.

“We need some time to process. It’s not as positive as we had hoped,” his mother, Lois, said.

Al Jazeera reiterated its position that the trial was flawed and demanded the release of its journalists.

“The Egyptian authorities have a simple choice — free these men quickly or continue to string this out, all the while continuing this injustice and harming the image of their own country in the eyes of the world. They should choose the former.”

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