Egypt to free Jazeera's Fahmi pending 'formalities'

A high-profile security official, however, said that Fahmi's release is expected "within hours"

Egypt to free Jazeera's Fahmi pending 'formalities'
World Bulletin / News Desk
Egypt on Wednesday blamed "legal formalities" for the perceived delay in releasing a jailed Al Jazeera reporter who has renounced his Egyptian citizenship in order to be eligible for deportation.

"The prosecution is still finalizing legal formalities that have to do with Fahmi's release, including a memorandum which must be submitted to the president through the cabinet," Interior Ministry spokesman Hani Abdel-Latif told The Anadolu Agency on Wednesday.

Abdel-Latif said Fahmi's release was "only a matter of time," noting that Fahmi's legal standing was different from that of his Australian colleague, Peter Greste, who was deported three days ago to his home country.

A high-ranking security official, for his part, told AA that Fahmi's release was expected "within hours."

Fahmi, who holds dual Egyptian-Canadian citizenship, has voluntarily forsaken his Egyptian nationality in order to qualify for a recently-issued presidential decree allowing for the deportation of foreigners convicted in Egyptian courts.

Fahmi's renunciation of his nationality has drawn criticism from activists, who say Egyptian prisoners should not be forced to choose between their citizenship and their freedom.

They also denounced the ongoing detention of Al Jazeera journalist Mohamed Baher, an Egyptian convicted in the same lawsuit and sentenced to ten years behind bars.

Unlike Fahmi, Baher holds no other nationality and therefore cannot qualify for deportation.

"The concentrated media attention on Fahmi's [pending] release could end up delaying the process until public opinion has calmed down," Fahmi's lawyer, Negad al-Borai, told AA.

Al-Borai said the legal procedures in Fahmi's case should not take more than one week.

"Authorities might release him secretly to avoid some of the embarrassment by announcing his release after his deportation," he said.

On Sunday, Egyptian state television reported that Greste had been deported back to Australia following his release from prison in Egypt.

Greste's deportation was carried out in line with a 2014 law that gives Egypt's president the right to deport foreign convicts back to their home countries.

Following Greste's release, Qatar's Al Jazeera network had expressed hope that the Egyptian authorities would also release Fahmi and Baher.

The three journalists were arrested from a Cairo hotel in December of 2013 and charged with "spreading false news" and "abetting terrorists."

In June of last year, the trio was handed prison sentences ranging from seven to ten years each.

The Egyptian authorities accuse Al Jazeera of harboring bias in favor of ousted elected President Mohamed Morsi and his embattled Muslim Brotherhood group – charges the network denies.

Güncelleme Tarihi: 04 Şubat 2015, 16:08