By Reuters and VICE News
Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi on Wednesday pardoned 100 prisoners, including three Al Jazeera television journalists, according to security sources.
Canadian Mohamed Fahmy, Egyptian Baher Mohamed, and Australian Peter Greste were sentenced to three years in prison in a retrial last month for operating without a press license and broadcasting material harmful to Egypt. Greste was convicted in absentia, having been deported in February after spending 400 days in prison.As news of the pardons broke on Wednesday, Fahmy and Mohamed were quickly released from prison.
The two journalists were reportedly dropped outside a high school by police. After journalists began filming them, police officials showed up again — demanding to see filming permits and captured footage while saying that the school should not be filmed.
Fahmy’s brother Sherif Fadel Fahmy tweeted saying he had been in prison visiting Fahmy when the news of his release came through. “He is ecstatic and thanks all his supporters,” he said.
Egypt’s state news agency confirmed the pardons, saying the other prisoners included those who violated a law against public protest as well as some who were sick.
“This comes in the framework of President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi’s initiative to release a number of youth which he launched… in December,” it said, quoting presidential sources.
Also among the released were 16 women, including Yara Sallam, according to the news agency.
The pardons came a day before Sisi plans to head to New York for the 70th session of the UN General Assembly and the Egyptian president also announced them on his Facebook page.
Related: ‘I Want to Keep Talking About it': VICE News Interviews Peter Greste About His Time in Egyptian Jail
Human rights groups have accused Egyptian authorities of widespread violations since the army toppled the country’s first democratically elected president, Islamist President Mohamed Morsi, in 2013 after mass protests against his rule.
Egyptian security forces arrested dozens of activists last year for violating a 2013 law banning protests without a permit.
lam was arrested last year along with other activists accused of violating the protest law.
Speaking to VICE News following his deportation from Egypt in February, Greste said: “We’ve always insisted on our innocence. We’ve always insisted that the charges had no basis in reality.” He also said that, as a journalist, “you spend your whole life trying not to be the news.”
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By Reuters and VICE News