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Egyptian Court Orders Retrial Of Al Jazeera Journalists

Egyptian Court Orders Retrial Of Al Jazeera Journalists

Three journalists are expected to remain in jail until they appear in a new court for retrial, a defence lawyer was quoted as saying.

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, defence lawyers said on Thursday.

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 of the journalists was condemned by human rights groups and Western governments and prompted the United Nations to question Egypt’s judicial independence. The case has also contributed to tensions between Egypt and Qatar, where Al Jazeera is based.

Amid speculation that President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi could pardon or deport the men, who have been in jail for over a year, lawyers and relatives had hoped the retrial decision would include an immediate release on bail.

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

He and another defence attorney said the judge had not set a date for the new trial although they believed proceedings could begin within a month. The journalists’ lawyers can apply for bail during the first retrial hearing.

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 of the court decision.

The journalists say they were merely reporting the news when arrested in December 2013. In Doha, Al Jazeera reiterated its position that the trial was flawed and again demanded the release of its journalists.

Human rights groups say repression has been growing in Egypt since then army chief Sisi toppled elected President Mohamed Mursi of the Muslim Brotherhood in July 2013 following mass protests against his rule.

Egyptian media have referred to the journalists as “The Marriott Cell” in reference to the Cairo hotel where they were based. When they were arrested, an Egyptian television channel broadcast the police raid on their hotel room and suggested that their computers and other professional equipment were being used to harm Egypt, a strategic U.S. ally.

Mursi’s ouster soured ties between Egypt and Qatar, which backed the Brotherhood. But recent efforts — brokered by Saudi Arabia — to repair relations had raised hopes the journalists might be freed.

“I hope relations keep getting better (between Qatar and Egypt) for those poor, innocent journalists who got stuck in the middle,” Fahmy’s brother Adel said at the court.

Sisi suggested in November he was considering pardoning the journalists, who are being held in the notorious Tora prison.

Fahmy’s fiancee, Marwa Omara, told reporters before the court ruling that she expected a political solution to end the journalists’ imprisonment, not a legal one.

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