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Cairo court sends three Al Jazeera journalists to jail for 7-10 years

Peter Greste, Mohamed Fadel Fahmy and Baher Mohamed had been accused of aiding the Muslim Brotherhood

From left, Mohammed Fahmy, acting bureau chief of Al-Jazeera, correspondent Peter Greste, and producer Baher Mohamed.
From left, Mohammed Fahmy, acting bureau chief of Al-Jazeera, correspondent Peter Greste, and producer Baher Mohamed.
Image: AP/Press Association Images

AN EGYPTIAN COURT has sentenced three Al-Jazeera journalists to seven to ten years in jail after accusing them of aiding the blacklisted Muslim Brotherhood.

Australian Peter Greste, Egyptian-Canadian Mohamed Fadel Fahmy and producer Baher Mohamed, who work for Al-Jazeera English, were tried with 17 others on charges of “spreading false news” and having Brotherhood links.

Greste and Egyptian-Canadian Mohamed Fadel Fahmy were sentenced to seven years, while producer Baher Mohamed received two sentences — one for seven years and another for three years.

Their trial triggered international outrage amid fears of growing media restrictions in Egypt.

Nine defendants who were tried in absentia, including three foreign journalists, were sentenced to 10 years, while two defendants were acquitted.

Since the army ousted Islamist president Mohamed Morsi in July 2013, the authorities have been incensed by the Qatari network’s coverage of their deadly crackdown on his supporters.

They consider Al-Jazeera to be the voice of Qatar, and accuse Doha of backing Morsi’s Brotherhood, while the emirate openly denounces the repression of the Islamist movement’s supporters which has killed more than 1,400 people.

The three have been detained for nearly six months, along with six others.

Al-Jazeera says only nine of the 20 defendants are on its staff, including two foreign reporters who are abroad. A Dutch journalist not with the channel is also among the defendants.

Sixteen are Egyptians accused of belonging to the Brotherhood, which the authorities designated a “terrorist organisation” in December.

The four foreigners are also alleged to have collaborated with and assisted their Egyptian co-defendants by providing media material, as well as editing and broadcasting it.

The authorities also say the accused journalists were operating in Egypt without valid accreditation.

“On June 23, the entire world will be watching Egypt to see whether they uphold the values of press freedom,” Al-Jazeera said previously.

Yesterday, US Secretary of State John Kerry also called for freedom of the press to be upheld in Egypt as he made a surprise visit to Cairo.

‘Reporting, not supporting’

Kerry said he discussed with Egyptian officials “the essential role of a vibrant civil society, free press, rule of law and due process in a democracy”.

Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott said today ahead of the sentencing that he told Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi it would be a public relations coup if Greste avoids a severe sentence.

“I assured him, as a former journalist myself, that Peter Greste would have been reporting the Muslim Brotherhood, not supporting the Muslim Brotherhood,” Abbott, who spoke to Sisi over the weekend, told the Seven Network.

Sisi, who was sworn in as president on June 8, has said he intends to return Egypt to stability rather than encourage democratic reforms.

© – AFP 2014

Read: Ex-army chief Sisi declared Egypt’s president-elect with 96.9% of votes >

Read: Muslim Brotherhood leader among 683 sentenced to death >

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