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Jailed reporter looks to new law

Lawyers for a jailed Egyptian-Canadian Al-Jazeera journalist have urged his release, saying he should benefit from a recently passed law in Egypt that allows the country's president to deport foreign defendants, or those suffering from health issues.

Amal Clooney and Mark Wassouf, of British firm Doughty Street Chambers, said that Mohammed Fahmy has been in prison in Egypt for more than 300 days on the basis of a "fundamentally unfair" trial.

Fahmy and two other reporters, Australian Peter Greste and Egyptian Baher Mohammed, were charged with helping the Muslim Brotherhood, a group Egypt's government has declared a terrorist organisation.

Fahmy and Greste were sentenced in June to seven years and Mohammed to 10 in a trial described as a sham.

In a sign that the case, which has caused an international outcry, may be coming to a resolution, Egyptian president Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi said last week that he is examining ways to resolve the matter.

Mr el-Sissi was responding to a question about whether he considered issuing a pardon for the defendants or deporting the foreign defendants in the case.

The law passed this month was seen as providing a potential legal instrument with which to free the journalists.

The lawyers welcomed Mr el-Sissi's statement.

They said a pardon would be in line with a regional reconciliation agreement reached this month that sought to end tension between Qatar, Egypt and other Gulf countries over Doha's support for Islamist groups, including the Brotherhood.

The solicitors called on Al-Jazeera and Qatar to respect the agreement, "which requires that parties should not foment hatred between groups but rather work openly and cooperatively with each other in a spirit of reconciliation".

The lawyers also called on the country's chief prosecutor to release Fahmy, who suffers from Hepatitis C and an injured shoulder, because the ailments require urgent treatment.

The Al-Jazeera journalists' arrest last December was part of a broad crackdown against Islamists in which hundreds have been killed and thousands arrested.

The journalists said they had been prosecuted simply for doing their job.

They appealed their sentences and a court has set a hearing for January 1 2015.


From Belfast Telegraph