CAIRO -- An Egyptian court on Sunday acquitted an Al Jazeera journalist and 61 other people who had been charged with a variety of offenses after being arrested in July during clashes with security forces.
Egypt came under strong criticism from press freedom and human rights groups last week when it brought charges against 20 Al Jazeera journalists for allegedly aiding a terrorist group. It was not clear whether the man acquitted Sunday, Mohamed Badr, was part of the group charged last week.
Three of the 20 referred for prosecution last week have been in jail since Dec. 29. They include Canadian-Egyptian Mohamed Fahmy and Australian Peter Greste. Egyptian authorities have accused Al Jazeera of supporting the Muslim Brotherhood, which has been designated a terrorist organization.
Badr, who had been jailed since July, had been working for Al Jazeera’s Egyptian affiliate, which has since been banned.
Acquittals of protesters supporting deposed Islamist president Mohamed Morsi are a rarity. Thousands of his followers have been arrested since his ouster July 3. Charges against this group of demonstrators had included the possession of unlicensed weapons, vandalism, and blocking roadways.
Since November, when a harsh anti-protest law took effect, it too has been used to charge antigovernment protesters.