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February 3, 2015

Egypt frees Al Jazeera journalist after 400 days in jail

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Egypt has freed one of three Al Jazeera journalists who had been jailed for over a year on charges of aiding the Muslim Brotherhood, an Islamist group that is banned in Egypt.

Peter Greste arrived in Cyprus yesterday after spending 400 days in Egyptian jail. Egyptian authorities alleged that he, along with Mohamed Fadel Fahmy and Baher Mohamed, had supported the Muslim Brotherhood. The group was outlawed and deemed a terrorist organization in Egypt in 2013 after Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi, a member of the group, lost power in a military coup.

Greste expressed support for his two colleagues who remain imprisoned. “Amidst all of this relief, I still feel a sense of concern, a real sense of worry, because if it’s appropriate for me, if it’s right for me to be free, then it’s right for all of them to be free,” he said.

Fahmy, a Canadian-Egyptian journalist, renounced his citizenship today as a condition for his release. But Mohamed’s fate is uncertain, according to Borzou Daragahi, Middle East and North Africa correspondent for the Financial Times.

Egypt had announced in January that the three would be granted retrials, but those have not been scheduled.

Authorities continue to crack down on any moves that they say undermine the current government. Photojournalist Mahmoud Abu Zied has been imprisoned for 540 days, while this week an Egyptian court sentenced 183 Brotherhood supporters to death.


Warm up questions
  1. Where is Egypt?
  2. Why do you think so many journalists are being captured, imprisoned and in some cases even killed in the Middle East recently? What statement does that make about freedom of the press?
  3. Under what circumstances do you think a government would substitute a mass trial for an individual’s right to due process?
Critical thinking questions
  1. Who is the Muslim Brotherhood? What role have they played in Egyptian politics since the longtime dictator, Muhammad Hosni El Sayed Mubarak, was forced out of power?
  2. Why do you think the Egyptian government released Peter Greste, but not the other two journalists?
  3. Why do you think the international community is concerned about the mass trials that are being conducted in Egypt? Do you think individuals have the same chance for justice being tried en masse as they would if they were being individually tried? Explain your answer.
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