In this Monday, March 31, 2014 file photo, Al-Jazeera English producer Baher Mohamed, left, Canadian-Egyptian acting Cairo bureau chief Mohammed Fahmy, right, appear in court along with several other defendants during their trial on terror charges, in Cairo, Egypt (Photo: AP)
The retrial of two Al-Jazeera journalists is set to start in Cairo on Thursday in a case that has stirred international outcry.
Three journalists at Al-Jazeera English – Australian Peter Greste, Egyptian-Canadian Mohamed Fahmy and Egyptian Baher Mohamed – were convicted last year on charges of spreading false news and aiding a the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood.
In early February, Greste was released and deported to his native country, under the provisions of a newly issued law allowing foreign nationals to be deported to serve their sentence or be retried in their own country.
Eighteen defendants in the case, including the three journalists, were sentenced in June 2014 to jail terms ranging from seven to 10 years. Eleven were tried in absentia.
In early January 2014, the Court of Cassation had overturned the sentences and ordered a retrial.
Fahmy, an Egyptian-Canadian, recently renounced his Egyptian nationality in order to qualify for treatment similar to that received by Greste.
Fahmy's lawyers and advocates have been lobbying the Egyptian authorities for his release.
In the reasoning for ordering a retrial, the country’s highest appeal court said not enough evidence was presented by the prosecutors to support the charges against the journalists. The criminal court’s ruling was “generalised and convoluted,” relying only on some witnesses and reports of a technical committee, the reasoning statement said.
Egypt’s President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi had told German newspaper SPIEGEL on Monday he is considering a presidential pardon for the two journalists saying “humanity means compassion and peace.”
El-Sisi reiterated that he “never wished these problems [took place at all]” and that he would have asked them to leave the country if he were in charge when they were arrested in December 2013.
A presidential pardon, which can only be issued after all legal proceedings are consumed, is the only hope of release for Baher who holds Egyptian citizenship.