Trial of Al Jazeera journalists adjourned until 5 March

Ahram Online, Thursday 20 Feb 2014

Journalists are standing trial for joining a terrorist group and airing false news – charges labeled 'absurd, baseless and false' by the Qatari channel

Among Al Jazeera journalists to stand in trial: From L-R - Peter Greste, Mohamed Fadel Fahmy, and Baher Mohamed

The trial of 20 journalists working for Al Jazeera, including four foreigners, has been adjourned until 5 March.

Representatives from the Australian and Canadian embassies were in court to support their citizens.

There was a heavy presence of foreign media outlets in the courtroom.

The 16 Egyptians are charged with joining a terrorist organisation – a reference to the Muslim Brotherhood, officially designated a terrorist group in December – harming national unity and social peace.

The foreigners – an Australian, two Britons and one Dutch – are accused of "airing false news" in order to "undermine the state's status and disrupt public security."

Eight defendants, including Al Jazeera's Egyptian-Canadian Cairo bureau chief Mohamed Adel Fahmy and the former BBC correspondent Peter Greste, an Australian, are being held in custody.

The others, including the two Britons, are being tried in absentia.

Fahmy's brother, Adel, said the family had given prosecutors evidence showing Fahmy was not paid by the Brotherhood and did not adhere to the group's conservative lifestyle, Associated Press reported.

"This is a cooked case and they are trying to make it bigger than it is," Adel Fahmy said. 

Al Jazeera Mubashir Misr, an affiliate of the Qatari-based network, has been accused by the authorities of being biased toward ousted president Mohamed Morsi and his Muslim Brotherhood movement.

It is the first time journalists have been tried for terrorism-related crimes in Egypt.

"The world knows these allegations against our journalists are absurd, baseless and false," a spokesman of the Qatar-based broadcaster said.

"This is a challenge to free speech, to the right of journalists to report on all aspects of events, and to the right of people to know what is going on."

Human rights groups, fellow journalists and the United States have condemned the trial as an attack on freedom of expression and the media in Egypt.

The US State Department has accused Egypt of targeting journalists and others with spurious claims, demonstrating an "egregious disregard for the protection of basic rights."

Egyptian authorities have said it is a judicial matter and have rejected "unacceptable" interference from abroad.


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