Egyptian president Abdel Fattah Sisi issued a new law by decree Wednesday allowing him to send foreigners imprisoned in Egypt back to their home countries.
“This decision comes in the framework of upholding the nation's interests and preserving Egypt's international image,” state news agency MENA quoted a presidential spokesperson as stating.
According to MENA, under the decree Sisi could strike deals with foreign governments to “transport non-Egyptian convicts and suspects to their countries to be tried or have their punishment implemented.”
Under the new law, at least one imprisoned Al Jazeera journalist could be eligible for repatriation to his home country. Australian Peter Greste is one of the few foreign journalists imprisoned in Egypt.
Greste, Egyptian-Canadian Mohamed Fadel Fahmy and Egyptian Baher Mohamed were sentenced to between seven and 10 years imprisonment in June, after being found guilty of spreading false information and supporting the Muslim Brotherhood.
The case drew international condemnation from human rights groups, media organizations and free speech advocates.
By September, over 140 million people had taken to social media to demand the journalists be released.
According to Reuters, no Egyptian officials have publicly stated the government is currently considering repatriating Greste, though in the past Sisi has expressed regret over the trio's imprisonment.
“The sentencing of several journalists had a very negative effect, and we had nothing to do with it,” Sisi said in July.
Al Jazeera maintains their journalists are innocent of any wrongdoing. Since Sisi led a military coup against former elected president Mohamed Morsi, the government in Cairo has cracked down on media freedom, including foreign journalists.