Al Jazeera journalists sentenced to three years in retrial in Egypt

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) joins its Australian affiliate, the Media, Entertainment & Arts Alliance (MEAA) in denouncing the verdict of an Egyptian court, which convicted Australian journalist, Peter Greste and his Al Jazeera colleagues Mohammad Fahmy and Baher Mohamed in the retrial. The IFJ joins MEAA in expressing serious concern for press freedom in Egypt, which has come under attack in recent years.On 29 August, Greste, Fahmy and Baher were sentenced to three years in prison for working without a press license, broadcasting material damaging to Egypt, and for having ties to the blacklisted Muslim brotherhood. Greste, who was deported from Egypt in February, was convicted in absentia, however his colleagues were immediately taken away and Baher Mohamed received an additional six months imprisonment and fine for possessing a bullet casing, according to media reports.The three media workers and their colleague Mohamed Fawzy were arrested on December 29, 2013 at the Marriot Hotel in Cairo, Egypt. They were arrested for ‘damaging national security’ following meetings they had had with the Muslim Brotherhood and subsequently charged with ‘distorting the country’s image abroad’ and ‘fabricating news to aid the Muslim Brotherhood’. Following the initial trial they were sentenced to seven years in jail, Fawzy was released shortly after the arrest. Greste served 400 days in the Cairo prison, while Fahmy and Baher were released after serving more than 400 days.MEAA said: “Over the course of both trials, the prosecution had not presented any evidence suggesting the three had committed any wrongdoing other than simply performing their job. The verdict is yet another deliberate assault on press freedom and if allowed to stand, compromises the ability of other journalists to operate safely in Egypt without threat of arrest, harassment and intimidation for reporting the truth.” The IFJ has backed its affiliate in Australia. "This farce seems to be going on for ever," said the IFJ President, Jim Boumelha. "The Egyptian judges have once again been unable to realise that they have no evidence and no case. They decided to plough on irrespective of the condemnations worldwide not only by journalists and human rights defenders but also by lawyers and legal experts. This is clear proof that this case has been heavily politicised, and the three colleagues are being scapegoated despite having already paid a heavy price for just doing their job as journalists. The IFJ and the global community of journalists firmly believe that they are innocent and we will stand by them until they are acquitted of the charges". Greste said in a tweet that he felt “shocked and outraged” following the verdict and called on Egypt’s President, Abdel Fatah al-Sisi, to pardon him and his imprisoned colleagues. According to media, the lawyers representing the three journalists are expected to appeal against the decision.

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