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Sunday, 15 September 2019

Egyptian court sentences Al-Jazeera journalists to 3 years in jail for 'spreading false news'

Court acquits 2 defendants; rights advocates charge the verdict is 'death knell for freedom of expression in Egypt'; judge says those he convicted 'spread false news to harm national interest'

Ahram Online , Saturday 29 Aug 2015
Marwa Fahmy wife of Canadian Al-Jazeera English journalist Mohammed Fahmy, bursts into tears, as she is watched by human rights lawyer Amal Clooney, after the verdict in a courtroom in Tora prison in Cairo, Egypt, Saturday, Aug. 29, 2015 (AP)
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An Egyptian court sentenced Saturday six defendants, including three journalists and three students, to three years in prison in the Al-Jazeera retrial case.

Former Al-Jazeera journalist Mohamed Fahmy, who had given up his Egyptian nationality in the first trial to avoid being sentenced in Egypt, was among those sentenced to three years imprisonment.

Ex-Al-Jazeera producer Baher Mohamed received three years and six months in jail.

Australian journalist Peter Greste, who also worked for the Qatari-based TV station, was also sentenced in absentia to three years in prison.

Three students, Sohaib Saad, Khaled Mohamed and Shadi Abdel Hamid, were also sentenced to three years in prison.

Of the six convicted, Mohamed Fahmy, Baher Mohamed and Shadi Abdel-Hamid attended the hearing, and all three were taken to Tora prison after the verdict.

Two other defendants, Khaled Abdel-Rahman and Nour Hassan El-Banna, were acquitted by the court.

The guilty verdicts can be appealed.

Prominent rights lawyer Amal Clooney attended the court session Saturday as an advocate for Mohamed Fahmy, the former Al-Jazeera Cairo bureau chief.

Several Western envoys, including Canadian Ambassador Troy Lulashnyk and British Ambassador John Casson, attended Saturday's hearing.

Fahmy, a naturalised Canadian who gave up his Egyptian citizenship in February 2015 in an attempt to seek deportation, and Baher Mohamed were released on bail in February after more than a year in jail.

Greste was deported in February 2015 under a presidential decree issued by President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi in 2014 that allows foreign nationals to continue their pretrial detention or post-trial prison sentences in their home countries.

The general prosecution had accused the defendants of joining an outlawed group, in reference to the Muslim Brotherhood, obstructing governmental institutions and law, attacking the personal liberty of citizens or other freedoms, and harming national unity and social peace.

Baher Mohamed received an extra sentence of six months for possessing a bullet. 

“We will file an appeal,” member of their legal team Mostafa Nagui told Ahram Online.

Nagui added that he is optimistic the appeal session will take place by January or February 2016.

Appeal cases in Egypt can take months to be processed due to an overloaded legal system.

The defendants have already served 14 months of the three year sentences.

It's not clear whether Fahmy will be deported following the verdict or not.

Amal Clooney criticised the verdict, saying it sends a message that "journalists can be locked up for simply doing their job, for telling the truth and reporting the news."

Clooney also said that the verdict sends another "dangerous message" that there are judges in Egypt who will allow their courts to become "instruments of political repression and propaganda."

Amnesty International also condemned in a statement on Saturday the verdict, describing it as the "death knell for freedom of expression in Egypt."

However, Judge Hassan Farid reasoned that the court had determined that the defendants could not be viewed as journalists since they are not members of Egypt's Journalists Syndicate, nor had they registered with the state's General Information Authority, which grants foreign reporters permits to work in the country.

The court further determined, Farid said, that the defendants possessed unlicensed broadcasting equipment that they used to publish false news on Al-Jazeera TV stations, which are not licensed to operate in Egypt, to harm the country. 

Egyptian authorities accuse the Qatar-based Al-Jazeera of bias to the now-outlawed Muslim Brotherhood of deposed president Mohamed Morsi, allegations the network denies.

The three Al-Jazeera English journalists were arrested in December 2013 during coverage of the unrest that followed the ouster of Morsi.

They were convicted last year and sentenced to between seven and 10 years in jail over charges of assisting a terror group, in reference to the now-outlawed Muslim Brotherhood, and "spreading false news harmful to national security."

In January, a defence appeal was granted and a retrial set.

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29-08-2015 06:36pm
Al Jazeera's Qatar-owned, therefore pro-MB
Probably the journalists had no other choice as they were working for this well-known channel. However they must have realized what they were doing as they didn't get themselves accredited. What about having the Australian solution also for the Canada-naturalized man, except that this of course isn't quite fair for the only Egyptians. Maybe the best would be to pardon them all on condition of never again reporting on your country's affairs.
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29-08-2015 07:07pm
Foreigners in Egypt are not above the law
Being a foreigner and breaking the law does not make you immune to the Egyptian judiciary sytem. You break the law you must pay for it period . These stooges were unlicensed, paying thugs to "protest" meanwhile these thugs were not protesting but causing fatal harm and disorder. All the while these "Aljazeera criminals" you call reporters were airing that fake news. You are now looking for a pardon? They deserve what they got regardless of how load these western countries bark.

29-08-2015 05:49pm
An American Taxpayer
What makes me really upset about this is that American Taxpayer Dollars is paying for all of this. American taxpayers will give Egypt billions of dollars. That is an actual fact that no one can dispute.
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30-08-2015 09:22am
An American Taxpayer
It seems you have a selective memory like most westerners and you have forgotten about the $8 billion that the American taxpayer had paid Morsi/Muslim Brotherhood to "relocate" Hamas in Egypt!! What do you think about that travesty Mr American Taxpayer?

29-08-2015 02:42pm
reallity of court coming out
world are happy Egypt be distroy by dictator and by sold judgs now world understand how independent Egyptian are? third revulation very important for Egyptian otherwice Egypt be 4 parts
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Robert Fabian
29-08-2015 02:34pm
Don't Visit!
The message to all foreigners is - "Don't Visit!" It's dangerous to visit Egypt. Today it's sentencing non-registered foreign journalist. Tomorrow it could be sentencing foreign bloggers. Take head, don't think about visiting Egypt.
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30-08-2015 10:47am
Don't Visit!
That's funny and ironic at the same time for people like you saying that. If you were lucky enough to visit Egypt and KNOW the true picture about such an amazing country you would realise that the exceptional warmth of the Egyptians could spot such cold ignorance a mile away and they in fact do not want those kind of hateful people in their country.
30-08-2015 10:39am
Don't Visit!
That's funny and ironic at the same time for people like you saying that. If you were lucky enough to visit Egypt and KNOW

29-08-2015 02:19pm
Banana Republic
The legal system in Egypt is more convoluted than any other developing country. They used to call those smaller 3rd world countries banana republics for distorted legal systems; we are getting there! Continuing to jail journalists, no matter which media outlets they work for, is a mark of de-evolution not evolution, we are regressing not progressing, the Mubarak era thugs didn’t jail journalists, the backward MB brief government didn’t jail journalists; now we either reduce them to “publishers” of government statements, or sending them to jail. One would be insulting the banana republics by putting Egypt in the same branch!
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