Monday, June 23, 2014
Al Jazeera journalists convicted to 7 -10 years
Fahmy, Mohamed and Creste (Left to right)
Again a scandalous verdict from an Egyptian court: Three journalists of Al Jazeera English who have been in custody since December have been sentenced to seven years in jail, according to Ahram Online. The three, Australian Peter Greste, Egyptian-Canadian Mohamed Fahmy and producer Baher Mohamed, were on trial with 17 others on charges of "spreading false news," falsely portraying Egypt as being in a state of "civil war," as well as aiding or joining the banned Muslim Brotherhood.
In addition to his seven-year sentence, Baher Mohamed was handed an extra three-year term as well as an LE5000 fine for possessing ammunition. Four other defendants have been sentenced to seven years in jail while two -- including the son of prominent Muslim Brotherhood leader Mohamed Al-Beltagy -- have been acquitted.
Nine of the 20 defendants are in custody, while the 11 co-defendants who are being tried in absentia received 10-year terms each. Sixteen of the defendants are Egyptians accused of joining the Brotherhood -- designated by Egyptian authorities as a "terrorist organisation". The four foreigners in the case face allegations of assisting and collaborating with the Egyptian co-defendants by providing media material and equipment, spreading false news and publishing lies harming national interests.
Egypt authorities have been infuriated by the coverage of the Qatar-based satellite network Al Jazeera since the ouster of Islamist president Mohame Morsi last year. The network has contributed to straining ties between Cairo and Doha, a staunch supporter of Morsi's Muslim Brotherhood group.
The conviction of Peter Creste is poised to strain relations between Australia and Egypt. In Holland the conviction of reporter Rena Netjes, who left Egypt and is in Holland, was a reason for ministers Frans Timmermans of Foreign Affairs to summon the Egyptian ambassador. Timmersmans said that he will bring up the matter with his Eurpopean Union colleagues. British Foreign minister William Hague also summoned the Egyptian ambassador. Two British journalusts, Sue Turton and Dominic Kane, were among 11 defendants being tried in absentia out of 20 overall. They were handed 10-year sentences.
Western governments and rights groups have voiced concern over freedom of expression in Egypt since Mursi’s ouster and the crackdown has raised questions about Egypt's democratic credentials three years after an uprising toppled Hosni Mubarak after 30 years in power and raised hopes of greater freedoms.
"These ... verdicts are a stark admission that in today's Egypt, simply practicing professional journalism is a crime and that the new constitution's guarantees of free expression are not worth the paper they are written on," said Sarah Leah Whitson, Human Rights Watch's Middle East and North Africa director.