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Egyptian Leader Pardons Al Jazeera Journalists In Long-Running Case

Al Jazeera journalist Mohamed Fahmy (center) at a court hearing last month. The Egyptian president pardoned him on Wednesday.
Khaled Desouki
AFP/Getty Images
Al Jazeera journalist Mohamed Fahmy (center) at a court hearing last month. The Egyptian president pardoned him on Wednesday.

Updated at 9:22 a.m. ET

Undoing a three-year prison sentence that had drawn protests from media groups and other organizations, Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi has pardoned 100 people, including two journalists for Al Jazeera English.

The journalists are Canadian-Egyptian Mohamed Fahmy and Egyptian producer Baher Mohamed.

A statement from the president's office read:

"Today, President Abdel Fattah El Sisi issued a presidential decree that pardons 100 youth who had received final court sentences, having been convicted on the grounds of violating the anti-protest law and assaulting police forces. Other prisoners were pardoned due to their health conditions and on humanitarian grounds.

"The Presidential Pardon was issued in line with the President's initiative last December to release detained youth.

"The presidential pardon includes Mohamed Fahmy and Baher Mohamed, who were convicted in the case known as the 'Marriott Cell', in addition to other political activists namely, Omar Hazek, Peter Galal Youssef, Sanaa Seif and Yara Sallam."

The pardons "came a day before Sisi plans to head to New York for the 70th session of the U.N. General Assembly," Reuters reports.

Fahmy and Mohamed are among three Al Jazeera journalists who were sentenced last month to about three years in prison, after authorities said they didn't have press licenses and had harmed Egypt. Their case stretches back 20 months.

It all began in late 2013, when the trio was arrested and accused of aiding a terrorist organization. In June of 2014, they were sentenced to up to 10 years in prison — but that finding was later overturned.

The third journalist, Australian Peter Greste, was deported to his home country early this year — but he has still faced legal jeopardy in the case.

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Bill Chappell is a writer and editor on the News Desk in the heart of NPR's newsroom in Washington, D.C.