By Maggie Michael
CAIRO — A court ordered two Al-Jazeera journalists freed on bail Thursday after more than a year in detention on terrorism charges in a case that human rights groups have called a sham.
If authorities aim to eventually exonerate Mohamed Fahmy and Baher Mohammed, their strategy for doing so remains murky and slow as they apparently seek a face-saving way out of a legal process that has drawn international criticism of Egyptian justice.
A solution was found for a third Al-Jazeera defendant, Australian Peter Greste, when he was deported two weeks ago to his great relief. But Thursday’s decision indicated the court was moving ahead with a retrial of Fahmy and Mohammed.
The decision to release Fahmy and Mohammed brought tears of joy and relief by their relatives in the Cairo courtroom.
Al-Jazeera called the decision “a small step in the right direction” but said the court should dismiss “this absurd case” and release both journalists unconditionally.” The trial’s next session is set for Feb. 23.
The journalists, who worked for Al-Jazeera’s English-language channel, were arrested in December 2013 and accused of belonging to the Muslim Brotherhood, which was branded a terrorist organization after the military ousted President Mohammed Morsi earlier that year. Egypt has been cracking down heavily on Morsi supporters, and the journalists were accused of being mouthpieces for the Brotherhood and falsifying footage to suggest that Egypt faces