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Al Jazeera Journalists Celebrate Freedom in Egypt After 411 Days in Prison, but New Trial Looms

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Al Jazeera journalists Mohamed Fahmy and Baher Mohamed are free on bail in Egypt after more than a year in prison. The pair, and a third colleague, Peter Greste, were arrested as part of a crackdown on Al Jazeera following the ouster of President Mohamed Morsi in 2013. They were sentenced last June to between seven and 10 years in prison, a ruling condemned around the world. Greste was released earlier this month and deported home to Australia. Then last week, after 411 days behind bars, Fahmy and Mohamed were freed on bail. Despite their release, the case has not been dismissed. A new hearing is scheduled for next week. We are joined by Democracy Now! correspondent Sharif Abdel Kouddous in Cairo, who has been following their cases closely.

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Video squareWeb ExclusiveFeb 12, 2015Report From Cairo Courtroom: Egypt Releases Two Al Jazeera Reporters After 411 Days in Jail
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This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report. I’m Amy Goodman, with Aaron Maté. In our next segment, we’ll be speaking with the head of Podemos in Spain, Pablo Iglesias. Some are wondering if he will be the next prime minister of Spain. But first, we remain in Egypt. Aaron?

AARON MATÉ: As we continue in Egypt, where Al Jazeera journalists Mohamed Fahmy and Baher Mohamed are free on bail after over a year in prison. The pair and a third colleague, Peter Greste, were arrested as part of a crackdown on Al Jazeera following the ouster of President Mohamed Morsi in 2013. They were sentenced last June to between seven and 10 years in prison, a ruling condemned around the world.

AMY GOODMAN: Peter Greste was released earlier this month and deported home to Australia. Then, last week, after over 400 days behind bars, Mohamed Fahmy and Baher Mohamed were freed on bail. On Monday, Baher Mohamed celebrated his newfound freedom. Despite their release, the case has not been dismissed. A new hearing is scheduled for next week.

Democracy Now! correspondent Sharif Abdel Kouddous has covered this story from the beginning. You can see his report on last week’s court proceedings ordering the pair’s release at our website, democracynow.org. And he’s been covering the case for the Toronto Star, Canada’s largest daily newspaper. He interviewed Mohamed Fahmy for a front-page article on Sunday.

Very briefly, Sharif, if you can tell us the latest and tell us about Mohamed Fahmy, his feelings now about Egypt, about Canada?

SHARIF ABDEL KOUDDOUS: Well, Amy, it was a rare moment of joy in an Egyptian courtroom when the judge ordered bail. They’d been in prison for 411 days, and finally they’ve been released. But I think we have to realize that they still have this ongoing trial, they still face the same charges, and there’s still the danger.

Mohamed Fahmy has been very critical of the Canadian government. The government of Stephen Harper has close ties to the Sisi regime, and they have not—Harper has not personally intervened. He’s calling on Harper to call Sisi. He’s looking to be deported to Canada and benefit from a decree that Sisi passed in November which allowed Peter Greste to be deported. Fahmy is also very upset that he was essentially, he says, tricked into giving up his Egyptian citizenship in the hopes of benefiting from that decree. He was pressured by senior Egyptians officials, and now he had to pay a $33,000 bail to get out, when the other prisoners didn’t, and he lost his Egyptian nationality.

And I just want to take a chance also to highlight the fact that while these journalists have received a lot of attention, there are other journalists who have practically no attention who are imprisoned in Egypt, one of whom is Mahmoud Abou Zeid. His name is—he’s known as Shawkan. He’s a photojournalist. He’s been in prison for 550 days in a three-by-four-meter cell with 12 other prisoners. He describes his ordeal as an endless nightmare. So, while we’re happy that these two journalists are finally reunited with their families, there’s still other journalists in prison and tens of thousands of political prisoners in Egypt, as well.

AMY GOODMAN: Sharif, we want to thank you for being with us. Sharif Abdel Kouddous, Democracy Now!'s correspondent in Cairo, fellow at The Nation Institute, has just returned from a reporting trip in Libya. This is Democracy Now! When we come back from break, we speak to the leader of a new party in Spain that has garnered massive support. It's called Podemos, “We can.” Stay with us.

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