02:24 - Source: CNN
Al Jazeera journalists freed in Egypt pending retrial

Story highlights

Their retrial resumes February 23

Mohamed Fahmy says he reluctantly surrendered his Egyptian citizenship to facilitate his release

(CNN) —  

Two Al Jazeera journalists walked out of an Egyptian prison Friday after more than 400 days behind bars.

A Cairo court granted bail to Mohamed Fahmy and Baher Mohamed pending a retrial on charges that they supported the banned Muslim Brotherhood.

Their colleague Peter Greste, who was convicted with them, was freed about two weeks ago and deported to his native Australia.

Fahmy, a dual citizen of Egypt and Canada, posted about U.S. $ 33,000 in bail. Mohamed, an Egyptian citizen, was not required to pay but is barred from leaving the country before the retrial on February 23.

“Baher is home and with his family,” said his wife, Jihan Rashed.

Not enough

Their employer applauded the decision to grant them bail Thursday, but said it was not enough.

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

The three were arrested in Egypt in December 2013, accused of supporting the Muslim Brotherhood and broadcasting footage that portrayed the regime falsely with the intention of bringing it down.

They have consistently denied the charges or any ties to the Muslim Brotherhood, saying they were only doing their jobs.

Pawns in a geopolitical dispute?

Last year, all three were convicted on charges that included conspiring with the Brotherhood, spreading false news and endangering national security. Greste and Fahmy were sentenced to seven years in prison and Mohamed to 10 years.

The three appealed their convictions. In January, Egypt’s highest court granted them a retrial.

Rights groups have held that they were pawns in a geopolitical dispute between Egypt and Qatar, the small Middle Eastern country that sponsors Al Jazeera.

Many have seen Qatar as a supporter of the Muslim Brotherhood.

At the time of their arrest, Egypt was mired in political turmoil after the ouster of President Mohamed Morsy and his Muslim Brotherhood-backed government. After his ouster, the military, which had staged the coup, declared the longstanding political group a terrorist organization.

How were they arrested?

In a letter last year, Greste said authorities burst into a hotel room they were using while others rushed Mohamed’s home.

Egypt is the sixth-leading jailer of journalists in the world, according to a tally conducted in December by the nonpartisan Committee to Protect Journalists.

Giving up Egyptian citizenship

Greste was released as part of a new Egyptian law allowing the President to deport defendants. Defense lawyers also asked Egypt to deport Fahmy, a former CNN producer.

Fahmy said that an Egyptian official told him he would have to renounce his Egyptian citizenship first, which he had initially rejected.

“Then I got a call from a leading official in the country, and they told me: ‘Mohamed, nationality is not a piece of paper, but it is in the heart,” he said. “And you can visit Egypt as a tourist and apply for the citizenship again.’ “

Fahmy said he surrendered his citizenship reluctantly.