Al Jazeera Journalists Sentenced By Egypt To Seven Years Behind Bars
After being detained in Egypt for more than six months, three Al Jazeera English journalists were sentenced by an Egyptian court Monday on terrorist charges. The court found the journalists guilty for a number of crimes, including aiding a terrorist organization and tarnishing Egypt's reputation through false news broadcasting. Two of the journalists, Egyptian-Canadian bureau chief Mohamed Fahmy and Australian correspondent Peter Greste, received seven-year sentences, while Egyptian producer Baher Mohamed received 10 years. Mohamed received an additional three years for possession of ammunition. According to Al Jazeera, the ammunition was a spent bullet case Mohamed recovered at an Egyptian protest.
All three journalists denied the charges against them, and Al Jazeera stands by their innocence. Al Jazeera English managing director Al Anstey said in a statement:
There is no justification whatsoever in the detention of our three colleagues for even one minute. To have detained them for 177 Days is an outrage. To have sentenced them defies logic, sense, and any semblance of justice. ... The support shown for Mohamed, Peter, and Baher has been loud, unified, and determined, and has come from every corner of the world. The call for their freedom has come from journalists, people right around the globe, as well as leaders worldwide.
The journalists were arrested last December when Egyptian police raided the makeshift Al Jazeera studio, located in a Marriott hotel room, after covering the ousting of former Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi. Egyptian news media has referred to the journalists as the "Marriott Cell."
Egyptian prosecutors alleged that the three journalists were sympathetic to and aiding the Muslim Brotherhood, an Islamic organization that is considered a terrorist group by the Egyptian government. The governments of Syria, Saudi Arabia, Russia, United Arab Emirates and Bahrain also deem the Muslim Brotherhood a terrorist organization.
According to Al Jazeera, the prosecution cited podcasts from BBC News, a music video from Australian singer Goyte and news reports made when the journalists weren't in Egypt as evidence. The New York Times added that family vacation videos of Peter Greste were also screened in court as evidence. Al Jazeera denies any biased coverage of the Muslim Brotherhood, and maintains that their journalists were falsely arrested.
Representatives from Canada and Australia also spoke out against the verdict. "There is no incriminating evidence with regard to the charges and there were multiple procedural shortcomings," David Drake, the Canadian ambassador, told The New York Times.
According to Al Jazeera, several other journalists were tried in absentia and sentenced to 10 years in prison on the charges of aiding a terrorist organization. British journalists Sue Turton and Dominic Kane and Dutch journalist Rena Netjes were among those tried in absentia because they're currently living outside of Egypt.