An Egyptian court on Saturday sentenced three journalists working for Al-Jazeera's English channel to three years in prison, the latest development in a long-running trial criticised by press freedom and human rights advocates.
The case against Canadian national Mohammed Fahmy, Australian Peter Greste and Egyptian producer Baher Mohammed was set against the backdrop of a wider conflict between Egypt and Qatar following the 2013 military ouster of president Mohammed Morsi.
The case began in December 2013, when Egyptian security forces raided the upscale hotel suite used by Al-Jazeera at the time to report from Egypt. Authorities arrested Fahmy, Greste and Mohammed, later charging them with allegedly being part of Morsi's Muslim Brotherhood movement, which Egyptian authorities have declared a terrorist organisation, and airing falsified footage intended to damage national security.
Egypt has cracked down heavily on Morsi supporters since his ouster and the journalists were accused of being mouthpieces for the Brotherhood. Qatar-based Al-Jazeera and the journalists have denied the allegations, saying they were simply reporting the news. However, Doha has been a strong supporter of the Brotherhood and other Islamist groups in the greater Mideast.
Prosecutors used news clips about an animal hospital with donkeys and horses, and another about Christian life in Egypt, at the trial as evidence the three men broke the law. Defence lawyers, and even the judge, dismissed the videos as irrelevant.
Nonetheless, the three were convicted on June 23, 2014, with Greste and Fahmy sentenced to seven years in prison and Mohammed to 10 years.
The verdict brought international condemnation and calls for newly elected President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, who as military chief led the overthrow of Morsi, to intervene.
Egypt's Court of Cassation, the country's highest appeals court, later ordered a retrial, saying the initial proceedings were marred by violations of the defendants' rights.
Fahmy was asked to give up his Egyptian nationality in order to qualify for deportation.
Angered by Al-Jazeera's handling of the case, Fahmy has filed a lawsuit in Canada seeking $100 million from the broadcaster, saying that it put the story ahead of employee safety and used its Arabic-language channels to advocate for the Brotherhood.
Al-Jazeera has said Fahmy should seek compensation from Egypt.
(FRANCE 24 with AP)
Date created : 2015-08-29