Three al-Jazeera journalists convicted of "spreading false news" have been sentenced to three years in prison at their retrial in Cairo. One journalist, Baher Mohamed was given an extra six months.
The three were Mohamed Fahmy a Canadian, Egyptian Baher Mohamed, and Australian Peter Greste. Fahmy and Mohamed were led away from the court back to prison after sentencing. The third journalist, Australian Peter Greste, was deported back to Australia earlier in the year but nevertheless was put on trial again in absentia. Greste and Fahmy had been originally sentenced to seven years and Mohamed to ten in July of 2014. These convictions were overturned in January of this year. The three are all accused of aiding the Muslim Brotherhood, the party of former elected Egyptian president Mohammed Morsi. The party is now banned as a terrorist group and supporting them is a crime. All three deny the charges and claim they were simply doing their job a reporters. The lawyers for the three journalists are expected to appeal the decision.Lyle Doucet of the BBC said the verdict came as a shock in the room filled with Egyptian and foreign journalists. Although a guilty verdict was still expected, many thought that they would be given a lesser sentence and allowed to go free given that they had already served almost a year in prison before being freed pending this trial. Canada had hoped that Fahmy would have been deported as was the Australian journalist. Fahmy had given up his Egyptian citizenship in order to faciliate such a move. However, president el-Sisi said he could not interfere with the judicial process. Of course he had already done so in deporting Greste. This obviously annoyed the judiciary who tried Greste in absentia during this retrial.Greste tweeted that he was "shocked" and "outraged" by the verdict and described it as "yet another deliberate attack on press freedom".When the guilty verdict was read out, Mohamed Fahmy's wife, Marwa Omara, began to sob. Her ordeal had now lasted 608 days. Fahmy's lawyer,Amal Clooney, said:Given that Egypt has had several mass trials at which hundreds of those opposing his regime, most supporters of former president Morsi, have been condemned to death, el-Sisi probably worries little about the credibility of his regime and its judiciary. He knows that the US and Russia will continue to send him arms and other aid. Just recently Egypt has passed an even more stringent law as part of its anti-terror legislation:Evidence during the trial showed that the journalists had not been licensed. Al Jazeera answers questions about this and other aspects of the trial.
"The verdict today sends a very dangerous message in Egypt, It sends a message that journalists can be locked up for simply doing their job, for telling the truth and reporting the news."Clooney asked president el-Sisi to pardon the three journalists. She said that she would also push to have Fahmy deported to Canada. Now that the trial is over el-Sisi would not be interfering in the ongoing judicial process were he to do so. However, he may wish to show that he will not be pushed around by foreigners. He may regret having deported the Australian journalist.
A new anti-terrorism law in Egypt will make publishing news that contradicts the official version of events in terrorism-related cases a crime punishable by prison sentences, a setback for the freedom of the press, according to the local journalists union.