Amnesty: Timing of AJ staff release deeply cynical

Rights group says Egypt treats political prisoners "like hostages to be released only when politically expedient".

    Amnesty International has described the timing of Egypt's release of Al Jazeera's journalists Baher Mohamed and Mohamed Fahmy as "deeply cynical".

    Nicholas Piachaud, Egypt researcher at Amnesty International, said the journalists and other activists were released just as Egyptian president Abdel Fattah el-Sisi was due to fly to New York to address the United Nations on Egypt's human rights record.

    "It is deeply cynical timing," Piachaud said.

    "Egypt is treating political prisoners like hostages to be released only when politically expedient."

    The journalists were released as part of a presidential pardon on Wednesday ahead of the Islamic holiday of Eid-al-Ahda. Dozens of activists were also released. 

    On August 29, a court in Cairo sentenced Canadian Fahmy and Egyptian Mohamed, along with Greste, to three years in jail after finding them guilty of "aiding a terrorist organisation".

    Seven Al Jazeera staff that were tried in absentia were not pardoned.

    The journalists had been initially found guilty in June 2014 of aiding a "terrorist organisation", a reference to the Muslim Brotherhood, which was outlawed in Egypt after the army overthrew President Mohamed Morsi in 2013.

    At that original hearing, another six Al Jazeera journalists were tried in absentia on the same charges and were sentenced to 10 years' jail. 


    SOURCE: Al Jazeera


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