Egypt pardons Al Jazeera journalists

CAIRO - Egypt's president has pardoned two of the three Al Jazeera TV journalists convicted of broadcasting false news.

A presidential spokesman told AFP news agency that Mohammed Fahmy, a Canadian, and Baher Mohamed, an Egyptian, were on a list of 100 prisoners to be released.

Mohamed did not appear to be on the list when it was first published on Wednesday, nor did the Australian Peter Greste, who was deported in February.

They were sentenced to three years in prison last month after a retrial.

Prosecutors accused them of collaborating with the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood after the overthrow of President Mohammed Morsi by the military in 2013.

The journalists denied the allegation and said they were simply reporting the news. Legal experts said the charges were unfounded and politically motivated.

Pardoned alongside Fahmy and Mohamed were the prominent activists Yara Sallam and Sanaa Seif, who were sentenced to two years in prison in October 2014 for breaking an anti-protest law that gives the Egyptian authorities broad powers to ban or disperse most public demonstrations.

No reason was given for President Sisi's decision on Wednesday, but it comes ahead of the Islamic festival of Eid al-Adha and a day before he travels to New York to address the UN General Assembly.

Mr Sisi had also said he would be willing to pardon the Al Jazeera journalists once the judicial process had ended.

Fahmy, who renounced his Egyptian citizenship to qualify for deportation in February, is expected to leave for Canada once he is released.

The first trial of the journalists, at which they were sentenced to between seven and 10 years in prison, was widely condemned and Egypt's Court of Cassation ordered a retrial after ruling in January that the original court had been "hasty in pronouncing its verdict".

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