Australian journalist released from Egyptian jail, but 40,000 political prisoners remain

From Middleeastmonitor.com 

by Ben Norton

“After serving almost 400 days for a crime he did not commit, Al-Jazeera journalist Peter Greste has been released from an Egyptian prison. The Australian Greste, along with Al-Jazeera colleagues Mohamed Fahmy, an Egyptian-Canadian dual citizen, and Baher Mohamed, an Egyptian, had been charged with disseminating “false news” and purportedly supporting a “terrorist” organisation, the Muslim Brotherhood, which won Egypt’s first democratic elections. Two were sentenced to seven years behind bars, the other to ten years.

Amnesty International’s Deputy Director for the Middle East and North Africa, Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui said that all three faced “trumped up charges” and were forced to endure a “farcical trial” marred by irregularities. “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,” she declared. “It is unacceptable that the lives of these men have been so carelessly toyed with.”

The release of Greste is a very positive development, and human rights and press freedom advocates around the world should relish this victory, but not for too long. Apart from anything else, the journalists with whom Greste was arrested and imprisoned on the same charges are still in prison. While Al-Jazeera wrote that it “welcomed” Greste’s release, it continues to demand the release of his colleagues. Amnesty maintains that the continuing plight of Baher Mohamed and Mohamed Fahmy must not be forgotten, even as Greste is deported from Egypt.

Although Baher Mohamed, who missed the birth of his son in August last year, does not have the privilege of dual citizenship, Greste and Fahmy do, and so they can be deported. Mohamed has nowhere else to go.

It has not gone unnoticed that only the non-Arab among the imprisoned Al-Jazeera journalists has been freed. As one Twitter user wrote, “…only the white correspondent was released. Why? Cause ‘white lives matter’ & Sisi knows it”.”

Read the whole article here.

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