The continuing plight of Al Jazeera journalists Baher Mohamed and Mohamed Fahmy must not be forgotten as their colleague Peter Greste is deported from Egypt, said Amnesty International.
The organisation has been calling for the immediate and unconditional release of all three men since their arrest in December 2013.
“The news that Peter Greste will finally be allowed to leave Egypt after more than a year in prison comes as a welcome relief, but nothing can make up for his ordeal. It is vital that in the celebratory fanfare surrounding his deportation the world does not forget the continuing ordeal of Baher Mohamed and Mohamed Fahmy who remain behind bars at Tora prison in Cairo,” said Colm O’Gorman, Executive Director of Amnesty International Ireland.
Peter Greste, an Australian national, and Mohamed Fahmy, a dual Egyptian-Canadian national, had sought deportation under new Egyptian legislation that permits the transfer of foreign nationals to their home countries to face trial or serve their sentences in cases of the “highest interest of the state”. The men’s arrest had caused an international outcry.
The convictions of all three men were overturned by the Court of Cassation on 1 January 2015 on procedural grounds but they were kept in detention pending a re-trial. All of the men had been serving seven-year sentences for broadcasting “false news” and involvement with the banned Muslim Brotherhood movement.
Baher Mohamed has three young children. He missed the birth of his youngest son in August 2014 because he was in prison.
Mohamed Fahmy holds Egyptian and Canadian citizenship and there are hopes he may be deported to Canada.
“All three men are facing trumped up charges and were forced to endure a farcical trial marred by irregularities. Continuing to detain Baher Mohamed and Mohamed Fahmy is completely unjust and unwarranted,” said Colm O’Gorman.
News of the deportations came weeks after a reconciliation between Egyptian and Qatari authorities after a bitter feud.
“It has become increasingly clear that the journalists have been used as political pawns in a dispute between the authorities of Egypt and the Qatar government, which owns the Al Jazeera network. It is unacceptable that the lives of these men have been so carelessly toyed with,” said Colm O’Gorman.
The plight of Irish teenager Ibrahim Halawa, who has been sharing a cell with the three journalists, must also not be forgotten. Ibrahim is due to be tried on 8 February along with 493 others detained following protests in August 2013. His trial has been postponed three times already.
Amnesty International continues to call for the charges against all four men to be dropped.