Egypt: New guilty verdicts against Al Jazeera journalists 'make a mockery of justice'
‘The charges against Mohamed Fahmy, Peter Greste and Baher Mohamed were always baseless and politicised, and they should never have been arrested and tried in the first place.’
The guilty verdicts handed down against three Al Jazeera journalists are an affront to justice that sound the death knell for freedom of expression in Egypt, Amnesty International said today.
The Cairo criminal court ruled that the journalists broadcasted “false news” and worked without registration, sentencing Baher Mohamed to three and a half years in prison and Mohamed Fahmy to three years. Their Australian co-defendant, Al Jazeera journalist Peter Greste, was also re-convicted in his absence and sentence to three years.
Mohamed Fahmy and Baher Mohamed had been on bail since Egypt’s highest court of appeal overturned their previous conviction on 1 January. They were previously serving seven and ten-year prison sentences respectively. Both men can now appeal the verdict once more before the Court of Cassation.
Amnesty is calling for the verdicts to be overturned, for the journalists to be allowed to go free immediately, and has declared them prisoners of conscience. Amnesty is also urging the Egyptian authorities to facilitate Mohamed Fahmy’s request for deportation from Egypt to Canada.
Philip Luther, Amnesty’s Director for the Middle East and North Africa, said:
“This is a farcical verdict which strikes at the heart of freedom of expression in Egypt. The charges against Mohamed Fahmy, Peter Greste and Baher Mohamed were always baseless and politicised, and they should never have been arrested and tried in the first place.
“The fact that two of these journalists are now facing time in jail following two grossly unfair trials makes a mockery of justice in Egypt. Today’s verdict must be overturned immediately – Mohamed Fahmy and Baher Mohamed should be allowed to walk free without conditions. We consider them to be prisoners of conscience, jailed solely for exercising their right to freedom of expression.
“Today’s ruling is sadly only the tip of the iceberg. The Egyptian authorities are relentlessly cracking down on independent and critical media across the country to silence dissent – including foreign reporting. Dozens of journalists have been arrested over the past two years, and over 20 are today in detention.”
The court also sentenced a group of Egyptians on similar charges to three years, including students who said that the security forces had beaten them following their arrest last year. The authorities should ensure a prompt, independent and impartial investigation into the defendants’ allegations of torture, Amnesty said.