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Egypt frees Al-Jazeera journalists following presidential pardon

AFP | Mohamed Fahmy (left) and Egyptian colleague Baher Mohamed wait outside Cairo's Torah prison ahead of their trial on July 30, 2015

Al-Jazeera journalists Mohamed Fahmy and Baher Mohamed were on Wednesday released from prison following Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi’s pardon of 100 prisoners.

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"I'm feeling ecstatic knowing that I don't have to worry about lawyers, police officers following me all over the place and knowing that I'm going to share my apartment tonight with my beloved wife," Canadian journalist Fahmy told AFP after he and his Egyptian colleague Mohamed were released.

The two were dropped off by authorities in the upmarket Cairo suburb of Maadi, not far from their former prison.

"We're very, very happy. But we're a bit surprised about how it was done," Mohamed said, as the pair waited to be reunited with their families.

Wednesday’s pardons come a day before Sisi is heading to New York for the 70th session of the UN General Assembly.

Fahmy and Mohamed were sentenced in a retrial to three years in August for allegedly fabricating "false" news in support of the blacklisted Muslim Brotherhood movement, which the army removed from power in 2013.

Australian reporter Peter Greste was also convicted in the retrial, although he had been earlier deported through a presidential decree.

Their detention and trial sparked global criticism towards Sisi, who has said he wished the journalists had been deported from the outset rather than put on trial.

Their arrest in December 2013 came at a time of heightened unrest and a deadly crackdown on the Muslim Brotherhood following Islamist leader Mohamed Morsi's overthrow by the military.

At the time, Qatar, which owns Al-Jazeera, had been supportive of the Islamists.

The pardons on Wednesday came on the eve of the Muslim holidays of Eid, when prisoner releases often take place in Muslim countries.

Fahmy, who had dropped his Egyptian citizenship to qualify for deportation, is expected to leave for Canada once he is freed.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP, REUTERS)

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