Baher Mohammed, an Al-Jazeera journalist recently released on bail, holds his newborn son, Haroon

February 18, 2015 6:44 pm
An Al-Jazeera English journalist who is getting to know his
six-month-old son for the first time after spending more than a year in
Egyptian prisons said he was optimistic that a retrial beginning next
week would exonerate him.
Baher Mohammed, 31, was initially
sentenced to 10 years before an appeals court ordered a retrial for him
and colleagues Mohamed Fahmy and Peter Greste. The three were initially
convicted of terrorism-related charges in a trial widely derided as
political by rights groups and fellow journalists.
Greste, an
Australian, was deported home on Feb. 1. Fahmy, a dual Egyptian-Canadian
national, dropped his Egyptian citizenship at the nudging of Egyptian
security officials who told him it was the only way he would benefit
from a new law that allows foreigners to be deported during their
trials.
He and Mohammed were released Friday, but must report each day to the local police station until their new trial begins Monday.

Baher Mohammed, an Al-Jazeera journalist recently released on bail,
holds his newborn son, Haroon. Haroon was born while Baher was in jail.

“I am just optimistic but I decided not to (have) any
expectations. I decided to live the present time, to enjoy my limited
freedom. I am happy with it,” Mohammed said at his home in a Cairo
suburb, where he has been reunited with his wife, his three kids, his
parents and his Caucasian Shepherd.
Mohammed learned his wife was
pregnant with their third child two weeks after he was arrested at his
house in the middle of the night in December 2013. Security forces shot
the dog, then a puppy, as they stormed his house and searched it,
confiscating equipment and money.Now his newborn son Haroun is six
months old and his dog Gatsby’s leg has healed.
“I missed six months of (Haroun’s) life. Can you imagine? And I can’t get those six months back,” he said.
“Only the day before yesterday I started to make him smile and that was amazing. Finally I am building a relationship with him.”
Mohammed
said he spent 411 days in three different prisons in Egypt, including a
maximum security facility where he had to sleep on a damp cement floor
in a cell six and a half feet wide.
During his time behind bars
Mohammed put together a nightly variety show of sorts with other inmates
that included commentary on current events, reading poetry and singing.
During
some of the mock shows he and Fahmy grilled senior Islamist politicians
who had been detained after the 2013 military overthrow of President
Mohammed Morsi.
“We received some answers. Some other things we couldn’t get an answer for,” he said.
Mohammed
said his younger kids, Hazem, 5, and Fairouz, 4, would come with their
mother to visit him once a week, after he was removed from the maximum
security prison. But they never knew their father was imprisoned. They
always thought he was at work.
“Every time I try to go open the
door, they cry. They think I am leaving, going to work,” he said. So he
hasn’t left his family since being released on Friday.
Mohammed
expressed gratitude at the international campaign by rights groups and
fellow journalists calling for his release, saying it gave him strength
and had probably played a key role in authorities granting him a new
trial.
It’s a campaign he hopes to join once his own struggle is over.
“Even
if they set me and Fahmy free, freedom of expression will remain behind
bars because there are many other Egyptian journalists still behind
bars,” he said.
“After I saw this amazing unity of the journalist
community supporting us and freedom of the press, it is my
responsibility to keep this pressure to help immediately call for the
release of each single journalist.”
There are at least nine other
journalists in detention in Egypt. The Committee to Protect Journalists
listed Egypt in 2014 as one of the 10 worst jailers of journalists
around the world, along with China, Iran, Turkey and Ethiopia.
One
reporter, freelance photojournalist Mahmoud Abu Zeid, has been in
detention for over 550 days without charges. His detention was renewed
indefinitely on Monday.
The initial trial of the Al-Jazeera
English reporters opened last February, nearly two months after the
three were arrested and charged with aiding Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood,
which is now officially branded a terrorist group and has been the
target of a sweeping crackdown.
Rights groups described the trial
as a sham, saying the court produced no evidence to support the
charges. The journalists and their network said they were caught in a
political dispute between Egypt and Qatar, which sponsors Al-Jazeera and
had been a strong backer of Morsi during his divisive year in power.
Mohammed
said he was hopeful that the new panel of judges would free him and his
colleagues based on the appeals court finding that the evidence
presented by prosecutors was flawed.”
After the first trial I
decided to give up any expectations because when … they don’t come
true, it harms you inside. So I decided to give up dreaming as well.”

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