The Court of Cassation accepted the appeal of three Al Jazeera staffers jailed on terrorism-related charges on Thursday, and has ordered a retrial.
Last June the three journalists were sentenced to seven to 10 years in prison on charges of aiding a “terrorist organization” for their work with the Qatar-based satellite channel. The verdict caused a national and international uproar, with world leaders like United States President Barack Obama and Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott advocating for the release of the detainees.
Thursday’s court session began at 9 am with the defense team requesting bail for the three defendants, Austrialian correspondent Peter Greste, Canadian-Egyptian reporter Mohamed Fahmy and Egyptian producer Baher Mohamed.
The request was denied, according to Reuters.
The defendants would probably remain in prison until the retrial, defense lawyers told Reuters.
Adel Fahmy, the brother of defendant Mohamed Fahmy, told Mada Masr that the court’s ruling restored their family’s hope, and was “a step in the right direction.”
Adel stressed that his family trusted in Egypt’s judiciary system and the Court of Cassation, but he also admitted that the family had expected and hoped for Mohamed’s release on bail.
The appeal was filed with General Prosecutor Hesham Barakat and President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi last week by defense lawyers in Egypt and international human rights lawyer Amal Clooney, Adel said.
Canadian and Australian delegations attended Thursday’s court hearing. During the session the defense challenged the court’s conclusion that there was a link between Al Jazeera and the Muslim Brotherhood. The defense also argued that video evidence confiscated from Fahmy during a police raid was not incriminating.
Furthermore, Mohamed Fahmy and his colleagues were arrested four months before the Cabinet designated the Muslim Brotherhood as a terrorist group, meaning that the charge that they “aided a terrorist group” is undeniably incorrect, Adel Fahmy explained to Mada Masr.
Later on Thursday, Reporters without Borders (RWB) Program Director Lucie Morillon urged the judicial authorities to dismiss all the charges against the journalists and grant a full acquittal in the retrial, according to a statement posted on the RWB website. The group also called for a fair trial, describing the first one as a “sham.”
“They are not guilty on any of the charges and, in reality, are paying the price of the regime’s persecution of media with real or imagined links to the Muslim Brotherhood,” Morillon argued.
Sisi issued a decree last November stating that foreign detainees could be deported to their home countries. The decree sparked hope for Greste’s release and his parents, Lois and Juris Greste, sent an appeal to Sisi asking that their son be allowed to return home in time for Christmas.
Last week, Al Jazeera Mubasher Misr terminated its broadcast, though it plans to re-launch an international Mubasher channel using the same frequency.