Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi on Wednesday issued a decree granting him the power to deport foreign prisoners held in the country. The move would allow him to repatriate at least two of the three Al-Jazeera journalists who have been detained in Egypt for nearly a year, according to media reports.
“The president issued a law on Wednesday allowing (him) to agree to surrender and transport non-Egyptian convicts and suspects to their countries to be tried or have their punishment implemented,” MENA, Egypt’s official news agency, said, quoting Alaa Yousef, a spokesperson for the President. “This decision comes in the framework of upholding the nation's interests and preserving Egypt's international image,” Yousef reportedly said, without elaborating on the decree.
As of now, it is unclear if the new decree would be used by el-Sissi to free the Al-Jazeera journalists whose arrest in December last year, and the subsequent trial, triggered international condemnation.
The journalists -- Australian Peter Greste, Canadian-Egyptian Mohamed Fahmy and Egyptian Baher Mohammed -- were arrested on charges of aiding the now outlawed Muslim Brotherhood.
A trial held in June was termed a “farcical spectacle” and a “ferocious attack on media freedom,” by Amnesty International. Greste and Fahmy were sentenced to seven years in prison, while Mohammed received an additional three years for possessing a bullet shell.
The court had also sentenced a number of other journalists to 10-year sentences in absentia, including British journalists Sue Turton and Dominic Kane, and Dutch journalist Rena Netjes.
El-Sissi has previously spoken out against the trial and prolonged detention of the journalists, and said that the verdict issued against them had “very negative consequences,” according to media reports.
“I wished they were deported immediately after their arrest instead of being put on trial,” Sissi had reportedly said in July.
However, it is not immediately clear whether the decree would apply to dual citizens such as Fahmy, according to media reports.