Egypt’s Court of Cassation accepted on Thursday an appeal filed in the case of the three jailed Al Jazeera English journalists, and ordered a retrial.
The three journalists, Austrialian Peter Greste, the Canadian Egyptian Mohamed Fahmy, and the Egyptian Baher Mohamed were initially sentenced to seven to ten years prison time.
They were charged with aiding a terrorist group, tarnishing Egypt’s image abroad, and threatening Egypt’s national security.
The three are to remain in detention until the first session of retrial; they have spent over a year in prison since their arrest on 29 December 2013.
Qatari-owned Al Jazeera suspended the broadcast of its Egyptian channel on 22 December, two days after Egyptian President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi met with the Qatari Emir’s special envoy Sheikh Mohammad bin Abdel Rahman Al-Thani, which formalised in a Saudi-brokered reconciliation between the two countries.
Relations between the two countries have been tense since the ouster of former president Mohamed Morsi as the Egyptian regime accused Qatar of supporting the Muslim Brotherhood.
Last November Al-Sisi approved a law that allows for the deportation of foreign journalists to their home countries before an Egyptian court issues final verdicts in their cases.
Alaa Youssef, a presidential spokesperson, stated that the law was issued to “maintain Egypt’s international image”.
The Doha Centre for Media Freedom has called for the release of the journalists, adding that this would be “the first step towards opening a new chapter in Egypt-Qatar relations”.
Several rights groups and organisations, including the Association for Freedom of Thought and Expression, say that Egypt has been severely cracking down on freedom of press and expression.