Egypt's president pardons two Al-Jazeera journalists

Unclear whether al-Sisi's pardon will extend to Australian Peter Greste

Egypt's president Abdel Fattah al-Sisi pardoned 100 prisoners including two Al-Jazeera journalists, on 23 September, according to the Egyptian state news agency MENA.

The Al-Jazeera journalists, Mohamed Fadel Fahmy, a naturalised Canadian who gave up his Egyptian citizenship, and Egyptian Baher Mohamed, were sentenced to three years in prison at the end of August after a retrial on charges of colluding with the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood, producing reports containing "false news", and working as journalists without a press licence. 

Hours after their pardon, Fahmy and Mohamed were released by police in a Cairo suburb.

It remains unclear whether al-Sisi's pardon will be extended to their Australian colleague Peter Greste who was convicted in absentia after being deported to his home country in February. MENA has stated that a third person from the Al-Jazeera case was also pardoned, without revealing a name, but Greste says his conviction still stands.

MENA announced that the pardons included prisoners who violated a 2013 law banning protests without a permit. The pardoned prisoners also included 16 women, as well as some who were sick.

Sisi made the pardons on the eve of the Muslim holiday Eid al-Adha, traditionally a time of clemency, and before flying to New York to attend the annual United Nations summit of world leaders, from 25-27 September.

The protracted legal battle of the Al-Jazeera journalists, who have always maintained their innocence, attracted widespread condemnation from press advocates and human rights groups since their arrests in December 2013.

Egyptian authorities have long accused the Qatar-based Al-Jazeera of being a mouthpiece of the Muslim Brotherhood, the Qatar-backed movement which Al-Sisi began eliminating as soon as he ousted the Muslim Brotherhood president, Mohamed Morsi, in July 2013.