CAIRO — A Canadian journalist who has spent more than a year in a Cairo prison was ordered released on bail by an Egyptian court on Thursday, prompting expressions of jubilation from his family.
Mohamed Fahmy was granted bail, along with his Egyptian colleague, about an hour after the start of a retrial for both men, who face terror-related charges their families have called ridiculous.
An Egyptian judge demanded that Fahmy pay a bail amount equivalent to about C$41,000, and said the retrial would continue on Feb. 23.
The judge’s bail order drew applause in the courtroom and caused Fahmy’s fiancee, Marwa Omara, to cheer in jubilation: “Long live justice.”
“I just want to say thank you Egypt, thank you for doing the right thing,” Omara told reporters. “I am very happy. It is a rebirth for me and Mohamed.”
Omara added that she and Fahmy could now plan their long-delayed wedding.
“It’s time for me, for Mohamed to relax,” she said.
Judge Hassan Farid ordered the defendants not to leave “their homeland” and to report to their local police station each morning.
It was not clear if Fahmy would be immediately released on Thursday, the last day before the weekend in Egypt.
Fahmy and two colleagues — Australian Peter Greste and Egyptian Baher Mohamed — were arrested while working for satellite news broadcaster Al Jazeera English in December 2013.
I AM FREE
— Baher Ghorab (@Bahrooz) February 12, 2015
@Bahrooz CONGRATULATIONS BAHER!!! I'M CELEBRATING WITH YOU BROTHER
— Peter Greste (@PeterGreste) February 12, 2015
They were accused of supporting the banned Islamist Muslim Brotherhood group of ousted Egyptian president Mohammed Morsi and were charged with fabricating footage to undermine Egypt’s national security.
They denied all the allegations against them. But after a trial that was internationally denounced as a sham, Fahmy and Greste were sentenced to seven years in prison while Mohamed was sentenced to 10.
A retrial was ordered after a successful appeal in early January but a date for the matter hadn’t been immediately announced.
Greste was suddenly set free at the beginning of this month under new legislation that allows Egypt’s president to deport foreigners convicted or accused of crimes and Fahmy, who relinquished his dual Egyptian citizenship in December, expected to follow. His release was even called “imminent” by then-foreign affairs minister John Baird.
But Sunday’s announcement of a date for the retrial shocked the journalist and his family, who had prepared to return to Canada.
Fahmy’s release on bail Thursday has now buoyed the hopes of his family and supporters.
Greste tweeted his congratulations to his colleagues and called the bail decision a “huge step forward,” but added it was “not time to declare it over.”
Al Jazeera called the development “a small step in the right direction.”
“(It) allows Baher and Mohamed to spend time with their families after 411 days apart,” the broadcaster said in a statement.
“The focus though is still on the court reaching the correct verdict at the next hearing by dismissing this absurd case and releasing both these fine journalists unconditionally.”
It is unclear what Fahmy’s release on bail means for diplomatic efforts to have him deported back to Canada.
His family has continued to urge Prime Minister Stephen Harper to call Egypt’s president to demand the journalist’s release and even launched an online campaign on the matter this week.
A spokesman for the prime minister said Harper had personally reached out to his Egyptian counterpart on Fahmy’s case, though the timing or the form in which that overture was made has not been revealed.
With files from Diana Mehta in Toronto and from The Associated Press