Al Jazeera television network logo
Al Jazeera television network logo AFP photo

Egypt's top court on Thursday ordered a retrial of three Al-Jazeera reporters whose imprisonment on charges of aiding the Muslim Brotherhood triggered global outrage, but kept them in custody pending a new hearing, reported AFP.

Australian Peter Greste, Egyptian-Canadian Mohamed Fahmy and Egyptian Baher Mohamed of the broadcaster's English service were detained in December 2013 for spreading false information.

Greste and Fahmy each got seven years, and Mohamed was jailed for ten.

"The Court of Cassation has accepted their appeal and ordered a retrial," Greste's lawyer Amr al-Deeb said Thursday, according to AFP.

The defendants were not at the hearing, which lasted just 30 minutes.

Hopes for their release have grown since a thaw in diplomatic relations between Egypt and Qatar, where Al-Jazeera is based.

Qatar has been taking active steps to solidify improved relations with Egypt, after years of tension due to Qatar's support of Muslim Brotherhood.

A Qatari envoy recently met with Egypt's President Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi, the first such meeting since he was elected in June.

Al-Sisi’s office said Egypt hoped the meeting, which was attended by a Saudi royal envoy, was the beginning of a "new era" that puts the past disagreements between the two countries behind.

"I hope the reconciliation efforts between Egypt and Qatar continue for the sake of my brother and his colleagues... who are paying the price of a political crisis," Adel Fahmy told reporters.

The reporters, who authorities say lacked proper accreditation, were sentenced in June for aiding the Brotherhood after the army ousted Islamist president Mohammed Morsi in 2013.

The Brotherhood, which saw electoral success after the overthrow of longtime strongman Hosni Mubarak in 2011, has since been declared a "terrorist organization" in Egypt.

Egypt has accused Al-Jazeera in general, and its Egypt affiliate, Al-Jazeera Mubasher Misr, in particular, of doing Doha's bidding by serving as Islamists' mouthpiece at a time of a ferocious crackdown on their ranks.

The station denies any bias, saying it is simply covering Islamist protests, but recently shut down its Egypt channel as Qatar and Egypt grow closer.