Gen. Abdel Fatah el-Sisi, Egypt’s president and military leader, has pardoned two journalists working for Al Jazeera English who were convicted last month of publishing “false news” and collaborating with the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood, the Associated Press reported Wednesday. The two were chosen among 100 other pardons announced the day before President el-Sisi heads off to the U.N. General Assembly in New York.
Mohamed Fahmy and Baher Mohamed joined several human rights activists and political prisoners to be released this week. A third journalist from Al Jazeera originally arrested with them, Peter Greste, was deported to Australia in February. They had all faced a three-year prison sentence.
Fahmy’s lawyer Khaled Abu Bakr confirmed the pardon to the AP, calling his client “professional and innocent."
Only a few weeks ago, an Egyptian court released a verdict justifying the journalists' imprisonment, a move that was widely condemned by journalists and free-speech groups across the world. The court accused the newsmen of being in the service of the Muslim Brotherhood, a political party that was designated an illegal terrorist organization after Egypt's current regime came to power in July 2013.
"It has been proved beyond reasonable doubt that the Al Jazeera media channel has dedicated its broadcasting to the service and support of the Muslim Brotherhood faction and that they have permanently sided with them at the expense of their media ethics," the ruling said, according to the AP. "This provides enough ground for a conviction of belonging to a group based on violations of the law."
The trio had been stuck in the country since December 2013, a few months after the military takeover. After security forces raided their original offices around Tahrir Square, the trio moved their headquarters to the Marriott. That's where police arrested them, accusing them of being Brotherhood agents and broadcasting falsehoods designed to harm Egypt's national security.