Anger as Al Jazeera journalists jailed by Egyptian court
| 23 June 2014
Worldwide condemnation has followed the verdict of a Cairo judge who sentenced three Al Jazeera journalists to at least seven years in prison today (23 June).
Australian Peter Greste, Canadian-Egyptian Mohamed Fahmy and Egyptian Baher Mohamed, were found guilty of spreading false news and supporting the banned Muslim Brotherhood, which is deemed a "terrorist" organisation by the Egyptian regime.
"To have sentenced them defies logic, sense and any semblance of justice," said Al Anstey, managing director, Al Jazeera English.
The Qatar-based TV news network has called for the verdict to be overturned. "Alongside us is a worldwide solidarity, a global call for their release and a demand for basic freedoms to be respected," added Anstey.
Amnesty International described it as "a dark day for media freedom in Egypt," stating the trial was "a complete sham ... In 12 court sessions, the prosecution failed to produce a single shred of solid evidence linking the journalists to a terrorism organisation or proving they had "falsified" news footage".
The trio were each handed down a seven year sentence, while Baher Mohamed was sentenced to a further three years in jail on a separate charge involving possession of "unlicensed ammunition".
Eleven defendants tried in absentia, including British journalists Sue Turton and Dominic Kane and the Dutch journalist Rena Netjes, received ten-year sentences.
Julie Bishop, Australia's foreign minister, said her government would request an intervention. "We are deeply dismayed by the fact that a sentence has been imposed and we are appalled by the severity of it," she said.
US Secretary of State John Kerry spoke to Egyptian officials in Cairo on the eve of the verdict about what he called "the essential role of a vibrant civil society, free press, rule of law and due process in a democracy".
In Britain, foreign secretary William Hague said: "Egypt should review unacceptable sentences against Egyptian and international journalists and show commitment to freedom of the press."