Three Al Jazeera journalists were sentenced today to seven-year and ten-year imprisonment on the counts aiding terrorists, doctoring footage and endangering Egypt’s national security by spreading false news and supporting Egypts Muslim Brotherhood. Former President Morsis movement was banned in September 2013 by a ruling covering all the activities of the Muslim Brotherhood organization, the groups emerging from it, its associations, and any institution that branches from it or follows the group or receives financial support from it.
Australian Peter Greste and British Mohamed Fahmy and Baher Mohamed were judged alongside other journalists who were tried in absentia, including Sue Turton and Dominic Kane, and students with alleged links to Islamist protests. Monitors cast doubt on the trial as the Prosecution evidence appeared too weak to convict any of the defendants. “Technically, I don’t see how a court can convict any of the defendants based on the evidence we have seen,” said Mohamed Lotfy, executive director of the Egyptian Commission for Rights and Freedoms (ECRF), who has monitored the trial on behalf of Amnesty. “If they are convicted, it means that you are not allowed to hold any views that the government does not want you to believe and that would be a complete attack on the freedom of expression.”
International voices were raised to oppose the courts decision, a chilling and draconian verdict according to US Secretary of State John Kerry. Kerry says to have discussed the issue with Egypt Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry and President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi. Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop declared she was bitterly disappointed by the verdict. We are deeply dismayed that a sentence has been imposed and appalled at the severity of it, she added. British Prime Minister David Cameron
said he was completely appalled, while Amnestys Middle East and North Africa director Philip Luther stated: This is a devastating verdict for the men and their families, and a dark day for media freedom in Egypt, when journalists are being locked up and branded criminals or ‘terrorists’ simply for doing their job.
The three journalists had denied the charges and intend to appeal against the verdict. They were arrested in December 2013 and held in jail for the past six months.