An Egyptian court has sentenced three Al Jazeera English journalists, formerly with organizations including the BBC and CNN, to serve between seven and 10 years in jail, for allegedly helping government opposition group the Muslim Brotherhood.
Former BBC correspondent and Australian citizen Peter Greste (pictured, left), ex-CNN journalist and Canadian citizen Mohamed Fahmy (center), and Egyptian freelance producer Baher Mohamed (right) – all reporters for Al Jazeera English’s Egyptian bureau – have been imprisoned since their December arrests in Cairo, where they were covering the aftermath of the army’s removal of former president Mohamed Morsi.
The group is charged with aiding the Muslim Brotherhood – which was aligned with Morsi – and producing false news reports of the political situation in Egypt.
On Monday, Greste – Al Jazeera’s East Africa correspondent - and Fahmy, the organization’s Cairo bureau chief, were sentenced to seven years in prison, while Mohamed was sentenced to 10 years. The producer received an additional three years after he was allegedly found to be in possession of a bullet he had discovered at a protest.
The prosecution’s evidence included a BBC podcast, a news report made while none of the accused were in Egypt, a music video by Australian artist Gotye, and various recordings on non-Egyptian issues.
The defence says the journalists were wrongly arrested and that the prosecution has not yet proven any of the charges.
Other Al Jazeera journalists tried in absentia include Sue Turton and Dominic Kane, as well as Dutch newspaper Parool correspondent Rena Netjes, who were all sentenced to 10 years.
Al Anstey, MD of Al Jazeera English, said in a statement that the sentences defy “logic, sense, and any semblance of justice.”
“Today three colleagues and friends were sentenced, and will continue to be kept behind bars for doing a brilliant job of being great journalists,” he said. “‘Guilty’ of covering stories with great skill and integrity. ‘Guilty’ of defending people’s right to know what is going on in their world.
“There is only one sensible outcome now – for the verdict to be overturned, and justice to be recognized by Egypt,” added Anstey.