Al Jazeera journalists jailed for seven years in Egypt

The trio have been behind bars since December 2013.
Al Jazeera journalists jailed for seven years in Egypt
Al Jazeera journalists jailed for seven years in Egypt
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The News Minute| June 23, 2014| 7.03 pm IST

Two Al Jazeera journalists Peter Greste and Mohamed Fahmy, have been sentenced to seven years in prison by an Egyptian court for aiding the 'Muslim Brotherhood' and reporting false stories. A local producer working with Al Jazeera Baher Mohammed has been sentenced to ten years, additional three years for possession of ammunition. .

The trio have been behind bars since December 2013.

Worldwide, many voices have risen in support of journalists Peter Greste, who was previously with the BBC in Australia and Mohamed Fahmy who was with CNN. Other Al Jazeera journalists being tried in absentia were sentenced to 10 years. Their names are Alaa Bayoumi, Anas Abdel-Wahab Khalawi Hasan, Khaleel Aly Khaleel Bahnasy, Mohamed Fawzi, Dominic Kane, and Sue Turton.

Apart from them, the judge also gave 10 years sentences to two British journalists Sue Turton and Dominic Kane and a Dutch journalist Rena Netjes, who were being tried in “absentia”.

Journalists world over are enraged at the ruling. The Guardian notes that “the courtroom packed with journalists, diplomats and relatives erupted at the verdict which came despite what independent observers said was a complete lack of evidence”.

Al Jazeera English’ Managing Director Al Anstey has said that the verdict defies "logic, sense, and any semblance of justice".

In a statementAmnesty said - "Today three colleagues and friends were sentenced, and will continue to be kept behind bars for doing a brilliant job of being great journalists. 'Guilty' of covering stories with great skill and integrity. 'Guilty' of defending people’s right to know what is going on in their world”.

The issue is now garnering huge criticism against Egypt both inside and outside the country. Mohamed Lotfy, the Executive Director of the Egyptian Commission for Rights and Freedoms says that the verdict sent a chilling message to all opposition figures in Egypt. "It's a warning to all journalists that they could one day face a similar trial and conviction simply for carrying out their official duties. This feeds into a wider picture of a politicised judiciary and the use of trials to crack down on all opposition voices", he said.

Australian Foreign Minister has also condemned the incident. She said “The Australian government is shocked at the verdict in the Peter Greste case. We are deeply dismayed by the fact that a sentence has been imposed and we are appalled by the severity of it. The Australian government cannot simply understand it based on the evidence that was presented. We are all shocked by this verdict and that includes the Prime Minister. We will initiate contact at the highest level”.

The Al Jazeera website has quotes from co-workers and friends describing Fahmy and Mohamed. "Egypt needs journalists like Mohamed Fahmy - journalists who are the antithesis of the TV presenters, talk show hosts, and reporters in today's Egyptian media, who woudn't know integrity if it hit them on the head," said Al Jazeera producer Yasir Khan.

Baher Mohamed has been described as courageous journalist who loves his profession.

"Even though was covering the descent of his country into a nightmare state, [Baher] showed up at the ready every day, never taking sides, always with contacts from all sides," wrote Al Jazeera's online reporter D.Parvaz, who worked with him during the violent crackdown on anti-coup protesters in Cairo last year.

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