A trio of journalists from Al-Jazeera English has been found guilty and sentenced to three years in prison after their re-trial in an Egyptian courtroom on terrorism-related charges.
Mohammad Fahmy, a Canadian, and Baher Mohammad, an Egyptian producer for the Qatar-based network, were on hand for the Saturday sentencing hearing. They were immediately taken into custody. The third defendant, Australian Peter Greste, was deported in February and sentenced in absentia.
The three had been accused with having links to a “terrorist organization” and for “spreading false news” — charges widely viewed by rights organizations as trumped up and politically motivated.
The Sydney Morning Herald clarifies that specifically, they were convicted of “operating without a press license and broadcasting material harmful to Egypt.” The “terrorist organization” in question is the Muslim Brotherhood, now banned in Egypt.
The three were arrested in December 2013 while working for Al-Jazeera and spent 400 days in jail before their original conviction was overturned in January.
Al-Jazeera Media Network’s Acting Director-General Mostefa Souag said was a verdict that “defies logic and common sense.”
“The whole case has been heavily politicized and has not been conducted in a free and fair manner,” he said.
NPR’s Leila Fadel, speaking with Weekend Edition Saturday host Scott Simon, called the sentences “shocking.”
“There had been indications that the government wanted this to go away,” she said.
The New York Times reports:
“It wasn’t immediately clear how the sentence would affect the three men, although lawyers said they would be asking for a pardon from President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi, who has personally spoken out against the case.
“Greste … spoke to Al-Jazeera from Sydney and said he believed an Egyptian appeals court would overturn the verdict. …
“‘We broke no laws, we did nothing unethical or illegal or immoral. And so it’s just incomprehensible to see how the court can come to this conclusion,’ Greste said, adding that the verdict was ‘clearly political.'”
Amal Clooney, a lawyer for Fahmy, called on Egyptian President Abdel Fatah al-Sissi to overturn the court’s decision, The Guardian reports.
Updated at 3:35 p.m. ET. Rights Groups Decry Ruling:
The Committee to Protect Journalist said in a statement saying: “This trial has been carried out with no evidence and has caused great pain to (the men and their) families.”
“We call on Egyptian authorities to put an end to the abuse of the law which has made Egypt one of the riskiest countries in the world to be a journalist.”
Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa division, said the trial “makes a mockery of justice in Egypt” and that the organization considers the journalists “prisoners of conscience, jailed solely for exercising their right to freedom of expression.”