Egypt court denies bail for 20 Al-Jazeera journalists

Ahram Online , Monday 24 Mar 2014

Trial once again adjourned, this time to 31 March, as bail request denied for 20 Al-Jazeera journalists detained on terrorism charges

Jazeera Trial
Heavy journalists presence outside the court in the trial of Jazeera journalists (Photo: Ahram)

The trial of 20 Al-Jazeera journalists accused of aiding or joining the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood was adjourned for a third time on Monday, with the defendants' request for bail denied by the court.

The trial will resume on 31 March.

Monday's session saw the prosecution accusing the defendants of possessing "devices" without a permit.

However, the prosecuting lawyer was interrupted by Mohamed Fahmy, one of the defendants, who said that there was only one device in question and that it had been also owned by several private Egyptian TV channels, including CBC and ONTV.

The defense lawyer further affirmed to the judge that Al-Jazeera English, the employer of four of the defendants, was licensed to work in Egypt.

Meanwhile, the defendants requested to be transferred from Al-Aqrab prison, where they claim they have been subjected to torture and assault at the hands of security officers, in addition to ill treatment and the absence of medical care.

“The Muslim Brotherhood and [former president Hosni] Mubarak are being treated better in their trials than us,” said Fahmy, a former producer for CNN.

The British newspaper The Guardian reported this week that Fahmy has been denied medical treatment for a shoulder injury he suffered before his arrest in December and has since lost the use of his arm.

Defendant Soheib Saad also complained that he has not been allowed visits from his family.

The journalists' case has stirred a chorus of international condemnation over the stifling of media freedom in Egypt.

The defendants include award-winning Australian reporter Peter Greste, Canadian-Egyptian Cairo bureau chief Mohamed Fahmy and Egyptian producer Baher Mohamed – all of whom worked for Al-Jazeera English.

The Australian Consul in Egypt has been following the trial to monitor its proceedings, reported Al-Ahram's Arabic news website.

The journalists have been in custody since late December, when they were arrested at a Cairo hotel over an alleged illegal broadcast.

Only eight of the defendants are in custody, with the rest being tried in absentia.

Al-Jazeera has dismissed the charges against its staff as "absurd" and "baseless" and has continued to call for their release.

The Doha-based media network – now banned from working in Egypt – says only nine of its journalists are among the defendants.

Security forces shut down Al-Jazeera’s Cairo offices following the army's overthrow of Islamist president Mohamed Morsi on 3 July. The authorities accused the network's Egyptian channel of giving favourable coverage to Morsi's Brotherhood movement.

Al-Jazeera Arabic's Abdullah El-Shamy has been detained without charge since 14 August, and has been on hunger strike since late January, the media network said.

Australian reporter Greste is the only foreign defendant in detention. Two Britons, Sue Turton and Dominic Kane, and Dutch journalist Rena Netjes, who fled the country after being indicted despite not working for the channel, are currently abroad and are being tried in absentia.

Last week, Egypt's interim President Adly Mansour sent a letter to Greste's parents, pledging a speedy resolution of the journalist's trial, a move that the network called an "encouraging sign."

The last hearing of the case was held early in March.


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