Trial of Al Jazeera journalists to resume in Cairo

Ahram Online, Wednesday 5 Mar 2014

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

The trial of 20 journalists working for Al Jazeera, including four foreigners, is scheduled to resume for its second session on Wednesday.

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.

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

In the first session, representatives from the Australian and Canadian embassies were in court to support their citizens.

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.

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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