Al Jazeera journalists jailed for 3 years in Egypt

2015-08-29 11:15
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Cairo - An Egyptian court on Saturday jailed three Al Jazeera journalists for three years each on charges of broadcasting false news and working without permits, in the retrial of a case that has highlighted the country's crackdown on the media.

Judge Hassan Farid said the court investigated the case fully and established that Peter Greste, Mohammed Fahmy and Baher Mohammed broadcast false news, were not journalists, and operated without permits or licences.

Australian citizen Greste was sentenced to a three-year prison sentence in absentia as President Abdel-Fattah al-Sissi ordered him to be deported in January.

Three Egyptian students on trial alongside the journalists were also jailed for three years.

Last year, the six men were sentenced to seven years in prison each on charges of collaborating with the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood movement and spreading false news about Egypt.

The initial verdict was overturned on appeal in January and Farid later released the defendants on bail.

International condemnation

The trial, coming after Greste and Fahmy were arrested in a December 2013 secret police raid on the Cairo hotel from which they were operating, sparked widespread international condemnation.

Amnesty International dismissed the initial trial as "a complete sham" and said the sentences were "a ferocious attack on media freedom".

Fahmy, an Egyptian-Canadian dual national, told the court that he had been pressed by a senior security official to give up his Egyptian citizenship so he too could qualify for deportation under a decree issued by Al-Sissi last year, which was widely seen as aimed at defusing the controversy over the journalists' trial.

Although he did so, Fahmy has been unable to leave Egypt.

The case is seen as stemming from a feud between Egypt and the Gulf emirate of Qatar, a strong backer of the Muslim Brotherhood.

Cairo has repeatedly accused the Qatari-owned Al Jazeera of a bias towards the Muslim Brotherhood, which the military removed from power in 2013 after street protests against the rule of then president Mohammed Morsi, a senior leader of the Islamist group.

The Doha-based TV network has denied the accusations, charging that Egypt is trying to muzzle the media.

Fahmy has accused the channel of putting its staff at risk by operating without the appropriate licences, and has filed a case against it in the Canadian courts seeking compensation.

Egyptian authorities have cracked down on Islamist media since Al-Sissi, as army chief, ousted president Mohammed Morsi of the Muslim Brotherhood in July 2013 after mass protests.

Islamist television channels were immediately taken off the air.

Non-Islamist media has increasingly toed the government line, with the various independent newspapers frequently published near-identical headlines when covering major issues.

The New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists said in June that eighteen Egyptian journalists were in jail in relation to their work, the highest number since the group started recording data in 1990.

Read more on:    al jazeera  |  egypt  |  north africa  |  media

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