Monday, August 31, 2015

International Condemnation of Prison Sentences Issued Against Al-Jazeera Staff

Egypt: Guilty verdict against Al Jazeera journalists affront to justice
August 29, 2015 

The guilty verdicts handed down against Al Jazeera journalists Mohamed Fahmy and Baher Mohamed are an affront to justice that sound the death knell for freedom of expression in Egypt, said Amnesty International.

The Cairo criminal court ruled that the journalists broadcasted “false news” and worked without registration, sentencing Mohamed Fahmy to three years in prison and Baher Mohamed to three and a half years in prison. Their co-defendant, Al Jazeera journalist Peter Greste, was convicted in his absence and sentence to three years in prison.

“This is a farcical verdict which strikes at the heart of freedom of expression in Egypt. The charges against Mohamed Fahmy, Peter Greste and Baher Mohamed were always baseless and politicized, and they should never have been arrested and tried in the first place,” said Philip Luther, Director for the Middle East and North Africa at Amnesty International.

“The fact that two of these journalists are now facing time in jail following two grossly unfair trials makes a mockery of justice in Egypt. Today’s verdict must be overturned immediately – Mohamed Fahmy and Baher Mohamed should be allowed to walk free without conditions. We consider them to be prisoners of conscience, jailed solely for exercising their right to freedom of expression.”

Amnesty International is also urging the Egyptian authorities to facilitate Mohamed Fahmy’s request for deportation from Egypt to Canada.

Mohamed Fahmy and Baher Mohamed had been on bail since Egypt’s highest court of appeal overturned their previous conviction on 1 January 2015. They were previously serving seven and 10-year prison sentences respectively. Both men can now appeal the verdict once more before the Court of Cassation.

The court also sentenced a group of Egyptians tried in their presence on similar charges to three years, including students who said that security forces had beaten them following their arrest last year. One student told the court in a recent hearing that security forces had tortured him after re-arresting him in early June.

The authorities should ensure a prompt, independent and impartial investigation is conducted into the defendants’ allegations of torture and other ill-treatment.

“Today’s ruling is sadly only the tip of the iceberg. The Egyptian authorities are relentlessly cracking down on independent and critical media across the country to silence dissent – including foreign reporting. Dozens of journalists have been arrested over the past two years, and over 20 are today in detention,” said Philip Luther.


Committee to Protect Journalists
CPJ condemns conviction, sentence in Egypt's retrial of Al-Jazeera journalists

August 29, 2015

The Committee to Protect Journalists condemns the conviction of three Al-Jazeera journalists in their retrial in Egypt today. A Cairo court sentenced Mohamed Fadel Fahmy, Baher Mohamed, and Peter Greste to three years in prison each for "aiding a terrorist organization," spreading false news, and working without a license, according to news reports. Baher Mohamed was sentenced to an additional six months in jail for possession of a spent bullet casing.

"This trial has been carried out with no evidence and has caused great pain to Mohamed Fadel Fahmy, Baher Mohamed, Peter Greste, and their families," CPJ Middle East and North Africa Program Coordinator Sherif Mansour said. "We call on Egyptian authorities to put an end to the abuse of the law which has made Egypt one of the riskiest countries in the world to be a journalist."

The three journalists had been convicted and sentenced to lengthy prison terms in June 2014 for "conspiring with the Muslim Brotherhood," which the government has banned. A retrial was ordered after a court said the journalists were convicted despite a lack of evidence, according to news reports. Greste, who is Australian, was retried in absentia.

The high-profile case is emblematic of the threats faced by journalists in Egypt. According to CPJ research, at least 22 journalists were behind bars for their reporting in Egypt on August 12, 2015. Most of the journalists jailed in Egypt are accused of belonging to the Muslim Brotherhood.
President Abdel-Fattah el-Sisi said in late 2014 that he would consider pardoning the three Al-Jazeera journalists.

*Photo by Khaled Desouki, courtesy of AFP

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