An Egyptian judge has ordered that two Al Jazeera journalists be released pending retrial after more than 400 days behind bars.
Canadian bureau chief Mohamed Fahmy was ordered to pay bail of 250,000LE (around $33,000) and Egyptian producer Baher Mohamed was released without bail after the first session of an internationally condemned retrial. The next court session will take place on February 23.
The ruling comes less than two weeks after a third defendant, Peter Greste, was released then deported to his native Australia after a presidential decree allowing foreign nationals to be repatriated. Fahmy, who had been a dual national, renounced his Egyptian citizenship in order to secure his freedom, but Mohamed does not have a foreign passport.
Mohamed's wife Jihane cried with happiness in the courtroom. She had previously told VICE News it seemed her husband would remain behind bars while his co-defendants were freed, and that his citizenship condemned him to harsher treatment from his own government.
All three men were arrested in December 2013, then found guilty of multiple charges, including "spreading false news" and collaborating with terrorists in June after a farcical trial that was widely criticized by human rights groups. Fahmy and Greste were handed seven-year prison sentences, Mohamed received 10 years. An Egyptian court overturned their convictions on January 1 and ordered a retrial, but they remained in detention.
There has been significant international pressure to release the three journalists. Several heads of state have appealed for their freedom, and a mass solidarity campaign appealed to the Egyptian government via social media. Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi decreed in December that foreigners held in Egyptian jails could be deported, a step believed to have been made in reaction to the outcry.
Thousands of Egyptians are still jailed as part of an ongoing crackdown that began in July 2013 after the military removed President Mohamed Morsi — the country's first democratically elected leader — from power. Since then, tens of thousands of citizens have been detained, including many members and supporters of Morsi's Muslim Brotherhood, which was designated as a terrorist organization on December 25, 2013.
Follow John Beck on Twitter: @JM_Beck