Retrial date set for Al-Jazeera journalists

2015-02-09 08:40
Mohammed Fahmy. (Hamada Elrasam, AP)

Mohammed Fahmy. (Hamada Elrasam, AP)

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Cairo - Egypt will hold a retrial for two Al-Jazeera English journalists still imprisoned there beginning Thursday, court officials said on Sunday, throwing into question one of their fates after authorities deported their Australian colleague.

Many believed Mohammed Fahmy, the satellite channel's Cairo bureau chief who recently gave up his Egyptian citizenship, would be deported like Australian Peter Greste.

News of the retrial of Fahmy and his Egyptian colleague Baher Mohammed, confirmed by court officials who spoke on condition of anonymity as they weren't authorized to speak to journalists, threw that into question.

The trial date "represents our worst nightmare, to have to go through another circus of a retrial", Fahmy's family said in a statement. They said Fahmy, also a Canadian citizen, had given up his Egyptian citizenship as part of a deal with prosecutors to be deported.

Canadian minister of state for consular affairs Lynne Yelich said Canada was "deeply concerned" by the announcement, coming "despite assurances that Mr Fahmy would be released along with his colleague, Peter Greste".

"Canada calls for the immediate release of Mr Fahmy," Yelich said in a statement. "I have ... continued to raise this government's concerns regarding Mr Fahmy's case with senior Egyptian officials and I will continue to do so. We remain hopeful that Mr Fahmy's case will be resolved in a timely manner."

Greste, now home in Australia, was deported 1 Febraury under a new law that appears to have been tailored to the Al-Jazeera case. It allows Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi to deport foreigners any time during their prosecution.

Freedom

Police arrested the three journalists in December 2013. Prosecutors filed charges accusing them of being involved in terrorism and for spreading false information, though at trial no real evidence was presented against them. Greste and Fahmy received a seven-year prison sentence while Mohamed received a 10-year sentence for also being found with a spent bullet casing.

The journalists, as well as Al-Jazeera and human rights groups, said they were arrested simply for doing their jobs as reporters. Ties between Qatar and Egypt also strained following the military's 2013 ouster of Islamist President Mohammed Morsi.

"Baher and Mohamed have been unjustly jailed for over a year, even though the entire world knows they are innocent," Al-Jazeera said on its website. "With a date now set for the retrial the Egyptian authorities know exactly what to do: Throw the entire case out and give Baher and Mohammed their freedom which has been denied to them for more than 400 days."

Yet the new move to retry the pair raised new fears about the case. Baher's wife, Jehan Rashed, already has begun campaigning to win her husband foreign citizenship out of fear he could be left behind otherwise.

"I wish that someone can give me another nationality" for Mohammed, she told The Associated Press on Thursday. "Freedom is more precious than nationality."

Read more on:    abdel-fattah el-sissi  |  egypt  |  north africa

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