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Cairo sentencing of Al Jazeera journalists a "ferocious attack" on media - Amnesty

Three men are among a group of journalists convicted of ‘falsifying news’ and supporting the Muslim Brotherhood.

In this file photo taken Wednesday, March 5, 2014, Al Jazeera journalist Peter Greste stands inside the defendants' cage in a courtroom during a trial on terror charges, along with several other defendants, in Cairo Egypt.
In this file photo taken Wednesday, March 5, 2014, Al Jazeera journalist Peter Greste stands inside the defendants' cage in a courtroom during a trial on terror charges, along with several other defendants, in Cairo Egypt.
Image: AP

Human rights group Amnesty International has criticised today’s sentencing of three Al Jazeera journalists by an Egyptian court as a “ferocious attack on media freedom”.

The three men, Australian Peter Greste, Canadian-Egyptian Mohamed Fadel Fahmy and Egyptian Baher Mohamed, were all accused of ‘falsifying news’ and aiding the blacklisted Muslim Brotherhood. The men have been in custody since their arrest on 29 December 2013, and were tried alongside 17 others on similar charges.

Greste and Fadel Fahmy have been sentenced to seven years, while their colleague Baher Mohamed received a seven-year and a three-year sentence. A number of other journalists were sentenced to 10-year terms in absentia.

Amnesty International has criticised elements of the trial including the apparent contradiction of witness testimonies and statements and the prosecution’s inability to provide credible evidence linking the journalists to the Muslim Brotherhood or news falsification.

Reacting to today’s sentencing, Amnesty International Ireland executive director Colm O’Gorman said:

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.

O’Gorman described the trial as a “sham”, adding: “The only reason these three men are in jail is because the Egyptian authorities don’t like what they have to say. They are prisoners of conscience and must be immediately and unconditionally released. In Egypt today anyone who dares to challenge the state’s narrative is considered a legitimate target.”

In a statement on the verdict, Al Jazeera English managing director Al Anstey called on Egyptian authorities to overturn the verdict and release the men, saying that they are behind bars “for doing a brilliant job of being great journalists”. He added that “not a shred of evidence was found to support the extraordinary and false charges”:

There is no justification whatsoever in the detention of our three colleagues for even one minute.  To have detained them for 177 Days is an outrage.  To have sentenced them defies logic, sense, and any semblance of justice.

He also tweeted the organisation’s continuing support to free the men:

Australian Foreign Minister Julia Bishop said, “We are all shocked by this verdict.” She said the government would contact newly elected Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi and ask him to intervene in the case.

She said Egypt’s government should “reflect what message is being sent to the world … We are deeply concerned that this verdict is part of a broader attempt to muzzle media freedoms.”

Meanwhile, British Foreign Secretary William Hague tweeted that the Egypt’s ambassador in London would be called over the sentences:

- Additional reporting by the Associated Press

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

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