Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry announced that “it’s still possible for President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi to issue a pardon for the imprisoned Al Jazeera English journalists, if deemed appropriate,” the state-owned Al-Ahram newspaper reported on Tuesday.
Canadian-Egyptian national Mohamed Fahmy, Al Jazeera English’s Cairo bureau chief, award-winning Australian journalist Peter Greste, Al Jazeera English’s Kenya-based correspondent, and Baher Mohamed, an Egyptian producer for Al Jazeera, have been in detention since December 2013.
The trio were charged with “aiding a terrorist organization” by spreading false news and were sentenced to seven to 10 years in jail in June 2014. The verdict spurred a national and international uproar, including calls for their release from world leaders and human rights organizations.
“All options are valid in light of the President’s legal and constitutional rights,” Shoukry said during a visit to the African UN headquarters in Nairobi.
“In theory, this is a possible path to follow, but it falls under the president’s jurisdiction, when he decides it’s necessary or appropriate,” he added.
Sisi had issued a decree last November, stating that foreign detainees could be deported to their home countries, sparking hope for Greste. In the same month, Sisi told French channel France 24 that he might pardon the three journalists. When asked about the possibility, he said, “Let us say that this matter is being discussed to solve the issue.”
However, Shoukry concluded that for now, the fate of the three journalists depends on the outcome of their retrial.
On January 1, the Court of Cassation accepted their appeal and ordered a retrial. The defense team requested bail for the defendants, which was denied. A call to release Fahmy on the basis of his failing health by his newly allocated barrister Amal Clooney, stating that he suffers from a shoulder injury and Hepatitis C, was also turned down.
Shoukry also positively assessed Al Jazeera Network’s decision to shut down its Qatar-based satellite channel Al Jazeera Mubasher Misr, broadcast in late December 2014.
According to him, stopping the channel’s broadcast, which “angered authorities in Egypt,” is “a contributing factor” to diffusing the tension between Egypt and Qatar.
A new Al Jazeera Mubasher channel with international scope is expected to launch soon, a statement issued by the parent network clarified.
“The general Al Jazeera Mubasher channel will be aired on the same frequencies of Al Jazeera Mubasher and Al Jazeera Mubasher Misr, which will be shut down temporarily until the conditions are set to broadcast again from Cairo, after acquiring new licensing in coordination with Egyptian authorities,” the statement added.