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Al-Jazeera journalists freed from Egypt prison, reunited with families

Mohamed Fahmy and Baher Mohamed had been jailed for more than a year
Jihan Rashid, the wife of Al-Jazeera journalist Baher Mohamed, after the judge ordered the release of her husband on bail (AFP)

Two Al-Jazeera journalists, both jailed in Egypt for more than a year, have been reunited with their families after being released early Friday morning. 

Bail was set for the journalists, Mohamed Fahmy and Baher Mohamed, who will still face a retrial to overturn a lower court's verdict on which found them guilty of aiding the Muslim Brotherhood.

A third Al-Jazeera journalist, Peter Greste, was released earlier this month under a new law that allows foreign nationals on trial in Egypt to be deported.  

Al-Jazeera said it was "a great, great day" immediately after they heard that the reporters had been freed.

Heather Allan, head of newsgathering at Al-Jazeera English, said just minutes after the news of their release: "We are very grateful. This is a great, great day for us and we just hope that... the whole thing is thrown out."

Journalists in Egypt, celebrating the release of Fahmy and Mohamed, were quick to point out that other writers and activists remain behind bars.

The three journalists of the Qatar-based organisation were arrested in December 2013 at the height of a diplomatic row between Egypt and Qatar, which owns Al-Jazeera.

The broadcaster, whose main office is in the Qatari capital Doha, had been critical of the deadly crackdown on Mohamed Morsi's Muslim Brotherhood movement following the Islamist leader's overthrow.

Qatar has since moved to mend ties with Egypt, and Al-Jazeera has closed its Arabic-language Egyptian affiliate.

On 1 January, Egypt's Court of Cassation ordered a retrial saying the lower court's verdict "lacked evidence to support its ruling".

"The criminal court was hasty in pronouncing its verdict," it said.

"The court did not wait for medical and legal reports which it had requested after several defendants spoke of being under physical and moral pressure" to make confessions, the appeals court said.

On Thursday, their case was adjourned until 23 February.

An official statement released by the broadcaster warned on Thursday that the journalists' case was still not finished.

"Bail is a small step in the right direction and allows Baher and Mohamed to spend time with their families after 411 days apart," it said. 

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