Cairo court delays verdict in Al-Jazeera journalists trial to 29 August

Ahram Online , Sunday 2 Aug 2015

This is the tenth time the court has adjourned the long-running retrial, according to the Qatari network

Al Jazeera journalist Mohamed Fahmy (2nd L) and his lawyer are seen inside a court before a hearing in his trial in Cairo, February 23, 2015 (Photo: Reuters)

A Cairo court has adjourned for the tenth time the lengthy retrial of three Al-Jazeera English journalists and five others after the judge missed the second hearing in days.

The court said Sunday the new date for the verdict is 29 August.

The court last week postponed what was meant to be the final verdict after the judge in the case, Hassan Farid, was ill and did not appear. The postponement Sunday came because Farid missed the day's hearing too, defence lawyer Shaaban Saeid told Ahram Online.

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 Islamist president 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."

Al-Jazeera's Cairo bureau chief, Mohamed Fahmy, a naturalised Canadian who has recently given up his Egyptian citizenship to win deportation, and Al-Jazeera producer Baher Mohamed were released on bail in February after more than a year in custody.

A third Al-Jazeera journalist in the case, Australian Peter Greste, was deported days before their release.

Several Western ambassadors, including the Dutch and Canadian envoys, as well as an EU secretary, attended Sunday's hearing.

The Qatar-based Al-Jazeera said Thursday it was outraged that the verdict has been adjourned and demanded a swift end to the proceedings and that the charges be dropped.

"We, along with others, expected a swift end to the ordeal for Baher Mohamed, Mohamed Fahmy, and Peter Greste," said Mustafa Souag, Al-Jazeera acting director general, in a statement carried on its English website

"All three men have been under immense stress and pressure for the past 19 months and delaying the final verdict has just continued the strain on them and their families," Souag added.

"We demand the Egyptian authorities bring an end to the charges against Baher, Peter and Mohamed, which should be dropped immediately. Journalism is not a crime."

Five other defendants, who are not Al-Jazeera employees, are being retried in the case on the same charges.

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

The case has sparked wide international outcry among journalists and rights groups.

Fahmy expressed his disappointment over the postponement Sunday, saying via Twitter that, "The audacity and continuous disrespect to our rights is unprecedented."


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