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‘A great, great day’ says Jazeera after reporters freed

February 12, 2015

Al-Jazeera said Thursday was “a great, great day” immediately after they heard that their reporters Baher Mohamed and Mohamed Fahmy had been freed pending retrial by a court in Egypt.

Heather Allan, head of newsgathering at Al-Jazeera English, said just minutes after the news of their release: “We are very grateful. This is a great, great day for us and we just hope that… the whole thing is thrown out.”

The pair had been in jail for 411 days but have been released from prison pending their retrial for allegedly supporting the banned Muslim Brotherhood.

Their case has been adjourned until February 23.

Mohamed and Fahmy were arrested at the height of a diplomatic row between Egypt and Qatar, which owns Al-Jazeera.

The broadcaster, whose main office is in the Qatari capital Doha, had been critical of the deadly crackdown on Mohamed Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood movement following the Islamist leader’s overthrow.

Qatar has since moved to mend ties with Egypt, and Al-Jazeera has closed its Arabic-language Egyptian affiliate which was sympathetic to the Brotherhood.

An official statement released by the broadcaster warned however that the case was still not finished.

“Bail is a small step in the right direction and allows Baher and Mohamed to spend time with their families after 411 days apart,” it said.

“The focus though is still on the court reaching the correct verdict at the next hearing by dismissing this absurd case and releasing both these fine journalists unconditionally.”

Allan added that Al-Jazeera would also work to clear the name of several other of its journalists tried and convicted in absentia.

Dispatches from AFP concerning freedom of information, censorship and news coverage in regions where independent media is under threat.