An Egyptian court on Thursday ordered the bail release of two Al Jazeera journalists who have been imprisoned in the country on terrorism charges for more than 400 days. The court’s decision does not dismiss the case against Mohamed Fahmy and Baher Mohamed, who are still facing a court hearing on Feb. 23, Reuters reported.
Following the judge’s reading of the decision, the courtroom erupted into applause with Fahmy’s fiancée Marwa Omara crying and hugging journalists in attendance, Reuters reported. "Thank you Egypt for doing the right thing.... For the last year I haven't been able to sleep," she said. Shortly after the decision was announced, Mohamed tweeted, “I am free.”
“Bail is a small step in the right direction, and allows Baher and Mohamed to spend time with their families after 411 days apart,”an Al Jazeera spokesman said in a statement, according to the Guardian. “The focus, though, is still on the court reaching the correct verdict at the next hearing by dismissing this absurd case and releasing both these fine journalists unconditionally.”
Fahmy and Mohamed were arrested along with Al Jazeera correspondent Peter Greste in December 2013 while covering the aftermath of the fall of the Muslim Brotherhood government of former president Mohammed Morsi. The three were accused of broadcasting “false news” and supporting the Brotherhood, which had been declared a terrorist organization by the new military-backed government. In June 2014, a court sentenced them each to several years in jail.
The case, which has been seen as an infringement on freedom of press in Egypt, has received wide international criticism, with human rights groups such as Amnesty International calling it symbolic of Egypt’s crackdown on free speech and demanding that charges against all three be dropped.
In response to international pressure, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi issued a presidential decree late last year allowing for the deportation of foreign prisoners, which laid the foundations for Greste’s release and deportation to Australia last week. Fahmy, a dual Egyptian-Canadian citizen, renounced his Egyptian citizenship last week in the hopes that it would pave the way for his deportation to Canada.