Saturday, August 29, 2015

Cairo court sentences Al-Jazeera journalists to three years

Mohammed Fahmy (l) and Baher Mohamed in court (Photo Reuters, April 2015).

A Cairo court has sentenced three Al Jazeera journalists to three years in jail after finding them guilty of "aiding a terrorist organisation".Egyptian Baher Mohamed, Canadian Mohamed Fahmy and Australian Peter Greste were all handed three year jail sentences when the court delivered the verdict on Saturday, sparking worldwide outrage. Mohamed was sentenced to an additional six months for possession of a spent bullet casing.
The journalists had been initially found guilty in June 2014 of aiding a "terrorist organisation", a reference to the Muslim Brotherhood, which was outlawed in Egypt after the army overthrew President Mohamed Morsi in 2013. Judge Hassan Farid, in his ruling on Saturday, said he sentenced the men to prison at least partly because they had not registered with the country's journalist "syndicate".He also said the men brought in equipment without security officials' approval, had broadcast "false news" on Al Jazeera and used a hotel as a broadcasting point without permission.
The journalists and Al Jazeera have vigorously denied the accusations during the trial.Ten previous sessions in the court had all been adjourned. Greste has already been deported to his native Australia under a law allowing the transfer of foreigners on trial to their home countries, but he was retried in absentia.Fahmy and Mohamed were on bail ahead of the verdict after spending more than 400 days in detention.The Cairo court said on Saturday that the previous time spent in prison will be accounted for as time served.
Fahmy renounced his Egyptian nationality hoping he too would be deported.Canadian Minister of State Lynne Yelich issued a statement after Saturday's verdict calling on Egyptian authorities to release Fahmy."Canada is disappointed with Mohamed Fahmy's conviction today. ‎This decision severely undermines confidence in the rule of law in Egypt," Yelich said. "The Government of Canada continues to call on the Egyptian government to use all tools at its disposal to resolve Mr. Fahmy's case and allow his immediate return to Canada."
The three men have received support from governments, media organisations and rights groups from around the world.

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