CAIRO, Sept. 23 (UPI) — Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi on Wednesday pardoned 100 prisoners, including Al Jazeera journalists Mohamed Fahmy and Baher Mohamed.
Mohamed, Fahmy and Peter Greste were sentenced to three years in prison on Aug. 29, following a retrial of a 2014 decision that critics said was based on ludicrous charges and a lack of incriminating evidence.
The claim is that the journalists produced biased news, which by default makes them part of the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood, the group that former President Mohammed Morsi belonged to when he was overthrown in 2013. The group is considered a terrorist organization by the Egyptian government.
The government sought to extradite Greste, who had already left the country after being deported. Fahmy and Mohamed were detained in Egypt’s Tora Prison.
Fahmy was serving as acting bureau chief in Cairo for Al Jazeera’s English network at the time of his arrest.
All three broadcasters denied the allegations, saying that they were just reporting the news. Amnesty International agreed, saying the verdicts for both men further complicated freedom of expression in Egypt.
The other detainees pardoned by al-Sisi’s list are part of thousands of individuals arrested by authorities as part of a crackdown on free speech.
Earlier in September, the Canadian government formally requested that the Egyptian government pardon Fahmy or deport him to Canada and in early September, more than 300 Canadians pressed Prime Minister Stephen Harper to further pressure Egypt to release him.
Fahmy’s brother Adel told the Toronto Star he was “speechless” but did not know specifically when his brother would be released from jail.