Egyptian President Issues Pardons For 3 Al-Jazeera Journalists
KELLY MCEVERS, HOST:
He was freed from a Cairo jail earlier today, and now we're going to talk to him. His name is Baher Mohamed. He's a journalist, and he was just pardoned by Egypt's president. The pardon appears to end a year-and-a-half-long ordeal for Mohamed and two other journalists who work for Al-Jazeera. The reporters were accused of terrorism and spent more than a year in jail, though evidence at their trial failed to show any links to terror. Baher Mohamed, welcome to the program.
BAHER MOHAMED: Thank you, Kelly. Thank you so much.
MCEVERS: You woke up in jail this morning, and now you're home. Tell us how your day went.
MOHAMED: The day went very weird today. It was - last night I was thinking of my appeal, what I'm going to do. I need a lawyer to come and visit me. I was preparing because I knew my wife and my children are coming to visit me in prison. They came early in the morning. It was a nice visit. They allowed us to - for us to stay for a long visit.
And then, as soon as I finished the visit, I went back to my room. They told me, Baher - everybody - all the prisoners inside, like - Baher, congratulations. You are pardoned. And I'm like, what? And I said, guys, are you serious? This is not a thing to joke about. I didn't believe it. And suddenly, somebody came. Pack your stuff. You're leaving. And I stayed with them - Mohamed Fahmy and our inmate Chedi (ph) - standing in a street, like, guys, we're out.
MCEVERS: Mohamed Fahmy, of course, is your colleague at Al-Jazeera. You guys worked together.
MOHAMED: Yes, yes. When we start realizing that, we start hugging each other and start dancing in the streets, like, wearing blues and dancing, and, like, shouting, we are free and starting, we are the champions. And everybody was looking at us in the street and like, who are those guys with luggage and blue clothes are dancing and singing in the streets?
MCEVERS: I mean, this decision today didn't happen in a courtroom. I mean, this was a pardon that was issued by the president...
MOHAMED: From the president, yes, yes.
MCEVERS: ...Abdel Fattah el-Sisi. So why do you think it's happening now?
MOHAMED: I don't know. I really don't know. But what I can tell that we have seen the advocates of freedom of expressions and advocates of press freedom and advocates of freedom of any aspect. To see this unity standing for this cause, I think this is why we're out today.
MCEVERS: So what are your plans now? Are you going to continue reporting?
MOHAMED: Sure. I love my job. But my thing is I want to get my children - I promised my children when this whole thing started - that when this whole thing is over, I'll take them to Disneyland. And I think this is my plan. I'm taking my children and my wife to Disneyland. And then I'm taking a break, taking my wife and children also to a beach so we can relax for a bit because they deserve that because they suffered a lot. And then I want to get back to my work. I want to get back to work.
MCEVERS: This ordeal's been going on for a long time. I mean, you were in jail for more than a year. Your baby son was born while you were in jail. Then you were let out for some time on bail. Then you were put back in. I mean, do you really feel like this is over now? Is this the end?
MOHAMED: I hope it's over. I hope - I really hope this nightmare is over. For me, I really hope it's over for me. But there are lots of journalists in Egypt are still behind bars. There are lots of journalists all over the world - not only in Egypt - all over the world in different countries are still behind bars. This is our fight. This is our fight, and this is our plan to continue to have those guys out.
To live in prison - it's a nasty life to stay in prison and sleeping on the floor with lots of insects and fleas and away from your families. And even when you see your family in a visit, it's just very limited. And you can't tell your kids what exactly is going on because they are too young. You can't see parents. It's not a normal life. So I really hope the nightmare ends for every single professional journalist all over the world, not only in Egypt.
MCEVERS: Sure. So this is real freedom? You're really free?
MOHAMED: Yes, yes. If I'm not sleeping or dreaming.
MCEVERS: Egyptian journalist Baher Mohamed, one of the Al-Jazeera reporters who was freed from jail today, thank you so much for talking to us.
MOHAMED: And thank you, Kelly, so much. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.