Egypt court sets 1 January as date for Al Jazeera staff appeal

Ahram Online , Tuesday 21 Oct 2014

Al Jazeera English journalists charged with working with a terrorist group will begin their appeal case on 1 January

Al-Jazeera journalists
File photo: Al-Jazeera journalists Peter Greste, Mohamed Fahmy and Baher Mohamed in court in Cairo (Photo: Reuters)

A Cairo Court has set 1 January as the date for an appeals session for Al Jazeera English journalists sentenced to prison in Egypt on charges of working with a terrorist group, a lawyer and the network said.

Three journalists of the Qatar-based Al Jazeera English news network were sentenced in June to jail terms ranging from seven to ten years for spreading false news and aiding the Muslim Brotherhood, a group now outlawed and designated a terrorist organisation by Egyptian authorities.

The trio are Egyptian-Canadian and Cairo bureau chief, Mohamed Fahmy, Egyptian producer Baher Mohamed and Australian correspondent Peter Greste.

Negad El-Borai, lawyer for Fahmy, said he was informed about the date of the hearing by his client's family.

The lawyer said he was certain of Fahmy's innocence, slamming the ruling as a blot on the record of the Egyptian judiciary.

Greste and Fahmy received seven-year sentences, while Mohamed received an additional three-year jail sentence on a separate charge of possession of weapons.

The Qatar-based network has repeatedly dismissed the allegations against its staff, demanding their release. The network said at the time of the rulings that the sentencing defied "logic, sense, and any semblance of justice."

Al Jazeera confirmed the date of the appeal hearing on Tuesday. It also said it would mark 300 days since the arrest of its journalists on Friday with "300 seconds of silence on-air, accompanied by images of the detainees and the campaign to release them."

Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi said on Monday he legally cannot grant clemency for imprisoned journalists in Egypt until final verdicts in their cases are issued, stressing that he could not interfere in the work of Egypt’s "independent" judiciary."

In what appeared to be an allusion to the Al Jazeera English case, El-Sisi said the ideal way to deal with violations committed by foreign journalists is deportation outside the country.

The sentences have drawn a flurry of condemnation from the international community and raised alarm over the future of press freedoms in Egypt. 

Amal Clooney, internationally-acclaimed human rights lawyer and a member of Fahmy's defence team, said that the trial was "unfair" and slammed the convocation as "a travesty of justice."

In a recent opinion article she wrote in The Huffington Post earlier this week, Clooney said there was no evidence to prove that the reporters have any links with the Brotherhood.

"It is ironic that the main charge against the Al-Jazeera journalists is that they sought to tarnish Egypt's image – there is little that could tarnish it more than allowing such injustices to persist," she said

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