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Egypt pardons Al Jazeera journalists

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi has pardoned Al Jazeera's journalists Mohamed Fahmy and Baher Mohammed. The pardon covers 100 prisoners, including several activists.

After being pardoned, the Canadian Mohamed Fahmy (photo, right) and the Egyptian national Baher Mohammed (photo, left) were expected to be released later on Wednesday.

According to the Egyptian state-run MENA news agency, a third person from the case which included other defendants along with Australian journalist Peter Greste - was also pardoned, without identifying who it was. Peter Greste was deported earlier this year and was sentenced in absentia.

Mohamed Fahmy, Baher Mohammed and Peter Greste were sentenced to three years in prison for allegedly fabricating "false" news in support of the blacklisted Muslim Brotherhood movement. Their detention and trial triggered criticism all over the world. The arrests in December 2013 came at a time of unrest after a crackdown on the Muslim Brotherhood following Islamist President Mohammed Morsi's overthrow by the al-Sissi's military. The general is now Egypt's president.

The presidential pardons were given to 100 people "who have received final prison verdicts in cases related to breaking a protest law or infringing on the police forces' actions, in addition to a number of health-related and humanitarian cases," the president's office said in a statement on Wednesday, quoted by the Associated Press.

According to MENA news agency, prominent Egyptian activists Yara Sallam and Sanaa Seif were among the pardoned prisoners.

The pardons came one day before al-Sissi is to travel to New York to attend the United Nations General Assembly.

das/msh (AP, AFP, Reuters)

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