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Jailed reporter's deportation hope

The brothers of an Australian Al-Jazeera English journalist held in Egypt for more than a year say their lawyers are pinning their hopes on a new law which could see him sent home at President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi's command.

An Egyptian appeal court yesterday ordered the retrial of three Al-Jazeera English journalists including Peter Greste, 49, held on terror-related charges, a ruling their lawyers hoped was a step towards resolving a case that brought a storm of international criticism of Egypt's government.

Mr Greste's brothers Michael and Andrew, speaking at a press conference in their home town of Brisbane, said the family's hopes were pinned on a presidential decree made in November that created a deportation option for bringing him home.

Michael Greste said the case for deportation was made stronger by yesterday's ruling by the Court of Cassation that made their brother an accused man rather than a convicted criminal.

"We've got to be hopeful," Mr Greste said. "It's a new decree and there's very little understood about it, there's very little regulation, there's no precedent so obviously we're in unchartered waters there.

"But I'd like to think that the decree was enacted for a reason to be used, so we're going to test it out."

Under the recently-passed law, Mr el-Sissi has the power to deport the foreigners during their trial. That would allow Mr Greste to go home and would allow his Canadian-Egyptian co-accused colleague Mohammed Fahmy to go to Canada if he drops his Egyptian nationality.

But the case of the third accused journalist, Baher Mohammed, would remain more uncertain as he holds only Egyptian citizenship.

Australian foreign minister Julie Bishop told Nine Network television her government had "some optimism" that Greste could be transferred to Australia now that his convictions had been overturned. She said she hoped to speak to her Egyptian counterpart Sameh Shoukry soon.

"The law in Egypt has changed since Peter Greste was first detained over 12 months ago and there's now an opportunity for a prisoner transfer agreement," she told Australian Broadcasting Corporation television.

"The law is not very clear, it is a new law, but it does provide for a couple of options for prisoners to be transferred back to their home country, in this case Australia."

Mr Fahmy's family has already submitted a request for deportation.

The three could remain behind bars at least until the retrial begins. But their lawyers expressed cautious optimism that a quick retrial will lead to their eventual exoneration.

Yesterday's ruling, rights advocates said, exposed the highly politicised nature of their initial conviction and heavy sentences of up to 10 years in prison in a trial that they dismissed as a sham with no evidence.

Egyptian authorities offered no immediate comment on the ruling.

Mr Fahmy and Mr Greste were sentenced to seven years in prison, while Mr Mohammed received 10 years - three more because he was found with a spent bullet casing, which brought him an added possession of ammunition charge. The defendants argued they were arrested for just doing their jobs.

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