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Monday, April 19, 2021

Jail for Al Jazeera journalists found guilty by Egyptian court

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AJ three Bel Trew

Three Al Jazeera journalists were found guilty of spreading false news and supporting the Muslim Brotherhood in a Cairo court this morning.

Australian journalist Peter Greste of Al Jazeera English, and his colleagues – local producer Baher Mohamed and Egyptian bureau chief Mohamed Fahmy – were jailed for seven years each by Judge Mohamed Nagy.

Baher Mohamed was also sentenced to an additional three years in jail for possessing ammunition – apparently a bullet.

A further 10 defendants who were being tried in absentia were each given sentences of 10 years in jail.

On hearing the verdict, Greste, Fahmy and Mohamed stood in silence, with arms round each others’ shoulders in solidarity, according to BBC correspondent Christian Fraser.

He added on Twitter that Greste hit the caged dock after the verdicts were read out.

Charges

The three men have been in Tora prison since they were arrested in their Cairo hotel room on Dec. 29.

They were charged with defaming Egypt and endangering national security, doctoring footage and for affiliating with the Muslim Brotherhood, which has now been branded a terrorist group.

Throughout their 177 days in prison, the trio vehemently denied all allegations against them.

This was their 13th hearing in the Cairo courtroom. Throughout their trial, which has been ongoing since Feb. 20 and has been beset by delays, the three have spent most of their time locked in a metal cage.

They entered the packed courtroom at around 10am today and gave “brave smiles and waves” from their caged dock before the verdict.

Journalists reported some defendants shouting “hurriyah” (freedom) as they waited for the judge.

Judge Mohamed Nagy entered the courtroom 90 minutes later, just after 11.30am Doha time, and delivered the verdicts.

The three key AJE journalists were tried, along with five students and the leader of a Muslim charity, in an attempt to show that they played a part in a Muslim Brotherhood-connected plot to tarnish Egypt’s reputation. A further 11 defendants were tried in absentia, including six more Al Jazeera staff.

The prosecution’s case against the journalists centered on videos which had been seized in a bid to demonstrate a plot. They included film about horse welfare for Sky News Arabia, a BBC documentary about Somalia and uncut footage of a press conference in Kenya.

International support

There was enormous international support for the journalists throughout their trial, as the proceedings were seen by many as a symbol of tightening media restrictions in Egypt. Ambassadors from UK, Latvia, Australia, Canada and the Netherlands were in court for the verdict this morning, along with representatives from the world’s media.

Political leaders including US Secretary of State John Kerry and Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott reportedly spoke about the case with Egypt’s new President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi on the eve of the verdict.

On Saturday, the New York Times featured a completely empty back page, with the strapline at the bottom: “This is what happens when you silence journalists. Show your support. Journalism is not a crime. #FreeAJStaff”.

Journalists and human rights campaigners around the world organized demonstrations and press conferences to raise awareness of the men’s case, and many public figures posted photographs of themselves on Twitter with their mouths’ taped and carrying a card with the hashtag #FreeAJStaff.

AA image

Amnesty International denounced the men’s detention, describing it as a “vindictive persecution of journalists for merely doing their jobs.”

One of Greste’s brothers, Mike, has been in Egypt for many of the hearings and his other brother Andrew flew in to be in court for the verdict.

After visiting Peter Greste in prison last night, Mike Greste told Australian broadcaster ABC News his brother was ” obviously very nervous and anxious, but at the same time (he’s) very composed and level headed about it all.”

Previous hopes

Hopes for the men’s freedom had been raised when their Al Jazeera Arabic colleague Abdullah Elshamy was freed from Cairo’s Scorpion prison on Tuesday of last week, 307 days after being arrested without charge.

He had spent nearly six months on hunger strike.

On his release, he had called for the freedom of his AJE colleagues, and was outside the court for the verdict.

More recently, many observers had hoped that Kerry’s announcement on Sunday of US$575mn of US military aid for Egypt meant that government officials had pledged to free the journalists.

Throughout the trial, the Qatar-based TV channel maintained the innocence of their journalists.

In advance of the verdict, Al Jazeera English’s Managing Director Al Anstey said the journalists were being held “simply for doing their job and carrying out the highest quality journalism.”

Thoughts?

45 COMMENTS

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MIMH
MIMH
6 years ago

Amenesty International must be racist for critising the Egyptian Judical process.

Seriously what did Qatar expect, if like the Americans you meddle in other countries affairs, then they will find ways to get back at you. They should get the message when Egyptian protesters, (govt backed????) wave bananas at the Qatari Embassy in Cairo.
Viva Arab brothers!

Deepak Babu
Deepak Babu
6 years ago
Reply to  MIMH

While I get your remark on “racism” , this is not the appropriate article to play tit for tat on. The Egyptian court ruling is horrible and any country that supports journalistic rights should voice their concern against this.

Expat Girl
Expat Girl
6 years ago
Reply to  Deepak Babu

Deepak Babu – I’m not sure if you have heard of a concept called sarcasm, but in case you haven’t, MIMH was being sarcastic. Many ailments that come the way of many countries are typically responded to by official statements back stating “racism” as the culprit (which by the way has become a proven technique to actually avoid addressing the topic at hand). I don’t want to speak on behalf of MIMH, but the way I read his statement is that he was being witty to state something so ridiculous (that Amnesty International is racist… I mean, come on, you HAVE to know that is sarcastic)to mimic what we all hear so much as the “racism” excuse.

Deepak Babu
Deepak Babu
6 years ago
Reply to  Expat Girl

Yes, I get that is sarcastic, that is why I said- I get it….. Still not an appropriate article for it. The situation these journalists are in does not seem appropriate to make light-hearted comments on. Would we be making sarcastic comments on the villagio fire incident articles or the restaurant gas explosion incident that resulted in all those deaths?

LoveItOrLeaveIt2
LoveItOrLeaveIt2
6 years ago
Reply to  MIMH

I assume your opinion on this topic would not be changed if Qatar did the same to Doha News team. *cough* Hypocrite.

MIMH
MIMH
6 years ago

I did not say it is right or wrong what Egypt has done, I just pointed out that this is one way Egypt can get back at Qatar for its support of the Muslim Brotherhood. The poor people who suffer because of the politcal problems between the two countries are these journalists.

LoveItOrLeaveIt2
LoveItOrLeaveIt2
6 years ago
Reply to  MIMH

Qatar supported the Egyptian people through the transit government, which was still under the military rule, long before the MB win the elections.

Yacine
Yacine
6 years ago
Reply to  MIMH

Qatar supported the revolution, and when the MB rose to power democratically, it naturally supported them. However, some Gulf monarchies who fear revolutions would spread to their countries and reveal their wrongdoings supported the counter-revolution. Sissi fulfilled their dreams and did the coup, so they rushed to support him. Now tell me why is Qatar to blame here?
Qatar has behaved professionally and ethically with Egypt both under Morsy and under the military, and it is very rare these days to see ethics in diplomacy.

MIMH
MIMH
6 years ago
Reply to  Yacine

I agree Qatar supported Egypt in this time and MB were elected in a mostly fair election. I also agree that the military coup was wrong and has no place in a democratic society. However when the MB started pushing their strict Islamic agenda against the wishes of the people and was not part of their election Qatar should have spoken out but did not.
I’m not sure that you can say Qatar behaved professionally and ethically in supporting the revolution, would you say the same if Egypt supported a revolution in Qatar? Was it Qatar’s revolution to get involved with? Qatar wanted to install regiemes in Libya, Egypt and Syria that were favourable to Qatar’s interest, mainly in the business and investment fields. They didn’t do it out of some higher purpose.

Omar Alansari
Omar Alansari
6 years ago
Reply to  MIMH

and What’s exactly wrong if all these to-be elected governments favored Qatar’s investments over others. they will need investments anyway for their economy to survive.

Ivan Brendieswski
Ivan Brendieswski
6 years ago
Reply to  Omar Alansari

They will, but are the unwritten costs of Qatari investment too high ? It sure looks like some folks are starting to think that Qatari investment might not be worth it, or at the least, it is better to spread the investment around. Nothing wrong with that at all, just good practical thinking.

MIMH
MIMH
6 years ago
Reply to  Omar Alansari

Nothing. We all need friends, especially friends with money.

Win
Win
6 years ago
Reply to  Omar Alansari

I think what MIMH is trying to say is that Qatar got involved not for a higher purpose such as human rights…democracy and etc but purely for economic and geo-political reasons.

Yacine
Yacine
6 years ago
Reply to  MIMH

I am mentioning facts, and you are replying by giving your own interpretations. No the MB dis not seek to impose Sharia, and no Qatar did not seek to place favourable regimes in the Arab “Spring”. Don’t take your own biased and highly debatable interpretations as facts! A revolution happened, Qatar and most of the World sided with the people of Egypt except Gulf monarchies and few other countries. Qatar and most of the world hailed the fair elections as exemplary and a great start for a country coming out of a revolution. There is nothing abnormal or controversial in what Qatar and most of the world did.

And most importantly, what happened today to these journalists is a shame and gives you an idea about the future of freedoms in Sissi’s Egypt. At least, with Morsy’s Shariah as you claim journalists were allowed to work and freedoms were guaranteed.

MIMH
MIMH
6 years ago
Reply to  Yacine

I think you are niave if you think Qatar did not seek to place favourable regimes in nearby countries. Nothing to be ashamed of, most countries with pretentions of being on the world stage do the same.
As for the MB we knew their ultimate goal as they said it themselves.

Huzz
Huzz
6 years ago
Reply to  Yacine

For the time being they were.

LoveItOrLeaveIt2
LoveItOrLeaveIt2
6 years ago
Reply to  MIMH

“Qatar wanted to install regiemes in Libya, Egypt and Syria that were favourable to Qatar’s interest, mainly in the business and investment fields.”

Let’s keep the argument fact-based.

MIMH
MIMH
6 years ago

It is or did Qatar do it out of the goodness of its heart….
Will Qatar release the man for reciting a poem or does it only support Al Jazeera journalists in mis carriages of justice?

LoveItOrLeaveIt2
LoveItOrLeaveIt2
6 years ago
Reply to  MIMH

When you break the law you get punished, it’s very simple. This goes for poems, songs, paintings or any other mean a person might choose.

Expat Girl
Expat Girl
6 years ago

Any other means? What about a mean like writing or filming for the press?

I’m confused which side you are on LoveItOrLeaveIt… press is an artistic expression just like poems, songs, and paintings; all of which can be disagreed with or even motivated by un-artistic motives. Yet you defend one class (AJ press) but seem quite happy for all others to be punished by law. You seem to support freedom of press based on your comments, but freedom of press and freedom of speech go hand in hand.

I cannot understand how you support the AJ men in Egypt, but do not support the man who recited a poem. It seems in fact that you are the hypocritical one, not MIMH.

LoveItOrLeaveIt2
LoveItOrLeaveIt2
6 years ago
Reply to  Expat Girl

You probably know nothing about the situation in Egypt (Mursi’s era and coup era, and the revenge they want to take), and certainly know nothing about Arabic poems and that specific poem that has been said. I am not bothered explaining all of this to someone who is pre-judgmental. If you can’t see it yet (or choose not to see it), then you probably never will.

Huzz
Huzz
6 years ago

Except driving like an idiot. 🙂

MIMH
MIMH
6 years ago

According to Egypt just like the poet in Qatar they broke the law and received prison sentences, however in their case only 7 years, the poet got life and then 15 years on appeal.
Both deal in words but one you seem to justify and the other you find acceptable. I’m confused by your blind patroism.

Abdulrahman
Abdulrahman
6 years ago
Reply to  MIMH

No, actually. The court in Egypt failed to prove any real wrong doings on the part of the journalists. The court accused them of belonging to a banned group, the MB I presume, which the court failed to prove.

Also, comparing the sentences of both cases based on the mere fact that they both “deal with words” is a gross oversimplification. In one case you had reporters who were simply doing their job, and they were not even jailed for what they reported, but based on the claim that they belonged to an outlawed group. The poet was sentenced for what he said, regardless of whether or not we believe the uttering of those words should be a criminal offence.

MIMH
MIMH
6 years ago
Reply to  Abdulrahman

I agree in both cases they were politcal punishments

LoveItOrLeaveIt2
LoveItOrLeaveIt2
6 years ago
Reply to  MIMH

This was a healthy discussion until you wrote those last two words. Buddy, scroll up and down this page and look how you made a joke of yourself. Don’t take arguments too personal.

Ahmed A
Ahmed A
6 years ago
Reply to  MIMH

You think its fine to jail these reporters as a means to get back at Qatar? I think given (I assume here) you live here, lets put you in jail as a way to back on the country you live in!

MIMH
MIMH
6 years ago
Reply to  Ahmed A

I certainly did not say that, I said that the current government, military, in Egypt sees this as a way to punish Qatar for backing the other side. These people are mere pawns in a bigger game.

Omar Alansari
Omar Alansari
6 years ago
Reply to  MIMH

BTW, Qatar -unlike before- didn’t support any side and took off its hand of this and almost all revolutions after Emir tamim took power. Just before the coup Qatar showed its support for a Tunisian-style coalition gov.
all Qatar did was not acknowledging the coup just like Oman, almost all african union, and many other counties world wide.

Win
Win
6 years ago
Reply to  Omar Alansari

I think damage was done already…this is the repercussion and if Qatar is not careful…i fear there will be severe repercussions for Qatar. HH Sheikh Tamim I hope will break free from his dad’s geopolitical maneuvering and concentrate on Qatar.

Ivan Brendieswski
Ivan Brendieswski
6 years ago
Reply to  Ahmed A

I’m not sure where you have drawn this idea from. At no point did MIMH make any such suggestion. You seem to have read more into a comment than what was actually said.

Expat Girl
Expat Girl
6 years ago
Reply to  Ahmed A

Unless a comment was deleted, I know for a fact that MIMH never stated it was “fine” to do so, he was merely stating what was happening. I don’t want these poor AJ guys jailed, and I am shocked by it, to be honest! But I agree with how MIMH is interpreting Egypt’s actions; they are obviously using this event to make a statement (whether it is right or wrong will depend on the person).

Deepak Babu
Deepak Babu
6 years ago
Reply to  MIMH

I can’t believe it, but I have to say I support the troll’s comments on this matter than yours.

Expat Girl
Expat Girl
6 years ago

Do you have a University education LoveItOrLeaveIt? Just curious.

MrJames
MrJames
6 years ago

Desperately sad and terribly unjust. Even worse to see John Kerry and the Obama administration supporting the Egyptian regime at this time, thereby supporting this sentence, and the mass trial and sentencing to death of 188 people.

Yacine
Yacine
6 years ago

As I said it before here, Sissi’s Egypt is a joke of a country. It just joined Syria, Central Africa, Burma and North Korea in the must-avoid and/or must-boycott list of countries.

MIMH
MIMH
6 years ago
Reply to  Yacine

Burma is heading in the right direction but Egypt has certainly gone backwards. I’m starting to think the most successful time for Egypt was during the Pharaos time and they have been going down hill for the last 3000 years.
Pity the poor Egyptians in Qatar and those that try to get work visas. No chance now.

Win
Win
6 years ago
Reply to  MIMH

Burma is far from heading in the right direction. Burma’s hope Aung San Suu Kyi is an international disgrace. Burma is far worst then Egypt.

Scarletti
Scarletti
6 years ago

playing politics with people’s lives ! if you risk jail for reporting news and opinions, both for and against the state to give a rounded opinion who would be a journalist ? horrendous !

outdoorsboys
outdoorsboys
6 years ago

I sincerely hope the US reconsiders its pledge of Military Aid to Egypt following this disgraceful verdict. We all crtiticise the press, we all accuse it of lies and fabrication, but without the reporting and commentary by journalists there would be little debate about the issues of the day. I hope the rest of the world makes it clear that this verdict is not acceptable, and takes a moment also to consider it’s own stance on freedom of the press. I may not like hat is written at times, and disagree fundamentally with some comments, but I 100% support the right of the press to print it

MIMH
MIMH
6 years ago
Reply to  outdoorsboys

I totally agree, the US should not give any military aid to the military dictators of Egypt. Looks like the Egyptians are in for another 30 year rule by the Dictator Sisi, just another Mubarak but this time with a military uniform hanging in his wardrobe.

Abdulrahman
Abdulrahman
6 years ago
Reply to  outdoorsboys

Military aid to Egypt is part of the deal to have peace between Egypt and Israel. As such, it’ll continue regardless of the conditions in Egypt. U.S. politicians have often stated that their countries top priorities in the region are Israel and Oil.

DavidRSS8
DavidRSS8
6 years ago

Extremely disappointing. It one this for Egypt to mistreat its own people, but quite another for them to jail journalists who are foreign nationals. Equally disappointing is the U.S.’s willingness to renew aid without putting their freedom on the table.

I’m sure Kerry got a long list of concessions in exchange for the aid, but releasing the journalists would have been a win for any pretense that the new Egyptian government is rational and ready to do business with foreign nations (something the failing economy desperately needs). It’s not like these guys were a real danger to the government. Deporting them after having been held so long would have gotten the same message across.

My sympathies go out to these men and their families.

Win
Win
6 years ago

This is Egypt’s way of telling Qatar with the support of Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and UAE…’Stay out of Egyptian domestic issues and know your place in the region’.

johnny wang
johnny wang
6 years ago

Strange country and strange laws. How can the authorities there in Egypt who overthrew a legally elected government, played around with the constitution of that country to suit their own ends, brutalized and murdered innocent protestors there claim any legitimacy to convict others and journalists for that matter who don’t even belong to the country that Al Jazeera transmits from.

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