World | Middle East

June 24, 2014

Egyptian Court Convicts 3 Al Jazeera Journalists on Terrorism-Related Charges

Three journalists working for Al Jazeera were convicted Monday by an Egyptian court and sentenced to seven years each in prison for conspiring to broadcast false news in order to destabilize Egypt.

The journalists for the network’s English-language channel — Mohamed Fadel Fahmy, an Egyptian-Canadian who has previously worked for CNN and The New York Times; Peter Greste, an Australian who has previously worked for the BBC; and Baher Mohamed, an Egyptian who has worked for other international news organizations — have been in jail since December.

Prosecutors accused the three journalists of conspiring with the Muslim Brotherhood to broadcast false reports of civil strife in order to bring down Egypt’s military-backed government. But the prosecutors have not publicly disclosed any evidence that the journalists either conspired with the Brotherhood or broadcast false news.

Mr. Mohamed was sentenced to three additional years in prison for what Al Jazeera has said was possession of a single spent shell casing he had taken as a souvenir.

After the verdict was announced, Mr. Fahmy, who was in a cage in the courtroom, clung to the bars as the police dragged him away by force. He tried without success to prevent other prisoners from chanting so he could shout to his family as he was taken out of the courtroom.

Ambassadors from Britain, Canada and Australia, noting that they had seen no evidence of the men’s guilt, said the trial procedures were flawed and promised to work for the release of the Al Jazeera journalists.

Al Jazeera, which is based in Doha, Qatar, reacted angrily to the convictions.

“This is a shocking verdict,” said Mostefa Souag, the acting director general for Al Jazeera, in an interview on the network shortly after the court’s decision was announced. “I don’t think it has anything to do with justice.”

In a statement, Al Jazeera said the sentences had been imposed even though “not a shred of evidence was found to support the extraordinary and false charges.”

“At no point during the long drawn out ‘trial’ did the absurd allegations stand up to scrutiny,” the statement said. “There were many moments during the hearings where in any other court of law, the trial would be thrown out. There were numerous irregularities in addition to the lack of evidence to stand up the ill-conceived allegations.”

“There is no justification whatsoever in the detention of our three colleagues for even one minute,” the network’s statement added. “To have detained them for 177 days is an outrage. To have sentenced them defies logic, sense and any semblance of justice.”

Prosecutors last week released Abdullah Elshamy, a journalist working for Al Jazeera’s main Arabic-language network who had gone on a hunger strike, because of his deteriorating health.

The three journalists convicted on Monday are experienced and highly regarded professionals, which has helped focus international attention on their plight.

 

Text by The New York Times
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Egypt
 

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