Al Jazeera journalists walk free

  • 24/09/2015
Al Jazeera television journalists Mohamed Fahmy (L) and Baher Mohamed (Reuters)
Al Jazeera television journalists Mohamed Fahmy (L) and Baher Mohamed (Reuters)

By Samer al-Atrush

Australian journalist Peter Greste says he is "overjoyed" that two of his Al Jazeera colleagues have walked free after being pardoned by Egypt's president.

Canadian Mohamed Fahmy and colleague Baher Mohamed were released from jail on Wednesday (local time) after President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi earlier pardoned 100 prisoners in a goodwill gesture on the eve of a major Muslim holiday.

The move came a day before Sisi was due to head to New York to deliver a speech at the UN General Assembly.

Within hours of the announcement, Fahmy and Mohamed were dropped off by authorities in the upmarket Cairo suburb of Maadi in their blue prison uniforms.

They told an AFP correspondent they were looking forward to being reunited with their families, but were unsure of their long-term plans.

"I'm feeling ecstatic knowing that I don't have to worry about lawyers, police officers following me all over the place and knowing that I'm going to share my apartment tonight with my beloved wife," Fahmy said.

Mohamed said: "We're very, very happy. But we're a bit surprised about how it was done."

The pair had been sentenced in a retrial in August to three years for fabricating "false" news in support of the Muslim Brotherhood movement, which the army removed from power in 2013 and outlawed.

Greste, who was also convicted but had been deported by presidential decree in February after 400 days in jail, said he was "overjoyed" by Wednesday's news.

"President Sisi has taken a very important step in restoring confidence in the system, but it is only a partial step," he told Al Jazeera.

Al Jazeera said it was "delighted" by their release, but added that celebrations were muted.

"It is hard to celebrate though as this whole episode should not have happened in the first place."

It was not immediately clear if Greste was included in the pardon, and the pan-Arab network is still demanding all charges and sentences against its journalists be dropped.