Jan 15, 2015 5:24 AM

Canada FM discusses jailed reporters on Egypt visit

The Associated Press

CAIRO (AP) Canada's Foreign Minister said Thursday that he had held "constructive and fruitful" talks with his Egyptian counterpart over three Al-Jazeera journalists, including one with dual citizenship, who have been detained in Egypt on terror charges for more than a year.

John Baird told reporters that he came with no expectation to resolve the issue immediately, saying the case is a "complex one." He said he hopes for a resolution "sooner rather than later," without elaborating.

Baird's visit comes nearly two weeks after Egypt's Appeals Court ordered the retrial of the three journalists, who were convicted on charges of fabricating news footage on behalf of the Muslim Brotherhood of ousted Islamist President Mohammed Morsi.

Canadian-Egyptian Mohammed Fahmy and Australian Peter Greste were sentenced to seven years in prison, while Egyptian Baher Mohammed received 10 years.

Prosecutors presented no evidence the three had ties to the Muslim Brotherhood or that they had fabricated news footage, and rights groups have demanded their release.

Their imprisonment is widely seen as linked to a conflict between Egypt and Qatar, which funds the Doha-based Al-Jazeera and was a strong backer of Morsi's government.

Egypt has accused Al-Jazeera, and particularly its Egypt affiliate, Al-Jazeera Mubasher Misr of serving as an Islamist mouthpiece amid a crackdown on the Brotherhood, now officially branded a terrorist group.

The station denies any bias, saying it is simply covering Islamist protests.

Egypt's president has the right to deport foreign defendants convicted or accused of crimes, according to a law passed last year. He can also issue pardons.

Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi has previously ruled out pardoning the journalists, saying it would undermine the independence of the judiciary.

However, in a recent interview with France 24, el-Sissi said a presidential pardon is being "examined" for the journalists, adding that it would only be issued if "appropriate for the Egyptian national security."


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