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Three reporters face Egypt retrial

An appeals court in Egypt has ordered a retrial in the case of three imprisoned Al-Jazeera English journalists.

The decision came after a hearing at Egypt's Court of Cassation that lasted only a few minutes.

Canadian-Egyptian Mohammed Fahmy, Australian journalist Peter Greste and Egyptian Baher Mohammed all have been held since their arrest in December 2013. Their arrests came after the overthrow of Islamist president Mohammed Morsi, a Muslim Brotherhood member.

Fahmy and Greste were sentenced to seven years in prison, while Mohammed got 10 years - three more because he was found with a spent bullet casing.

Rights groups dismissed the trial as a sham and foreign countries, including the US, expressed their concern over the journalists' detention.

Authorities accused Qatar-based Al-Jazeera of acting as a mouthpiece for the Brotherhood. The station denied the accusations and said the journalists were doing their job.

At trial, prosecutors offered no evidence backing accusations the three falsified footage to foment unrest. Instead, they showed edited news reports by the journalists, including Islamist protests and interviews with politicians. Other footage submitted as evidence had nothing to do with the case, including a report on a veterinary hospital and Greste's past reports out of Africa.

The three reporters were not granted bail but defence lawyers said they believed a retrial would be held within a month.

Lois Greste, Peter Greste's mother, said after the hearing that the verdict was "not as good as we hoped".

Adel Fahmy, Mohammed Fahmy's brother, said he had hoped his brother would have been freed today. He said each lawyer received three minutes to argue their stance on the case.

"I hoped for more today," he said.

Greste's lawyer, Amr El Deeb, hailed the ruling.

"This is a very good and optimistic decision. It will give them a second round of mitigation," Mr El Deeb said. "Hopefully when we go to the retrial, we can defend the defendants and present adequate support to try to set them free."

Fahmy's lawyer, Negad al-Borai, said seven lawyers represented the three journalists and four other defendants who are Muslim Brotherhood members.

"Baher, Peter and Mohammed have been unjustly in jail for over a year now," Al-Jazeera said in a statement after the court's decision. "The Egyptian authorities have a simple choice: free these men quickly or continue to string this out, all the while continuing this injustice and harming the image of their own country in the eyes of the world."

Fahmy's brother told reporters the journalists "should not be caught in the middle of this remote conflict between two nations".

"They are the only ones paying the prices," he said. "They are being punished on behalf of Qatar and Al-Jazeera."

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