Egypt sentences foreign journalists

Imprisonment of al-Jazeera reporters causes international outcry

Three al-Jazeera journalists received lengthy jail terms after being convicted of supporting the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood movement at a court in Cairo on 23 June.

Australian Peter Greste and Mohamed Fadel Fahmy, an Egyptian with Canadian citizenship, were both sentenced to seven years in prison while Egyptian Baher Mohamed received a ten-year sentence. All three worked for al-Jazeera English at the time of their arrest on 29 December and all have consistently denied the charges of spreading false news and supporting the banned Islamist group. The three were among 20 journalists held on terror-related charges in a high-profile case that received international attention.

Four other defendants were sentenced to seven years while the court acquitted two, including the son of prominent Muslim Brotherhood leader Mohamed Al-Beltagy.

The 11 defendants tried in absentia received 10-year sentences, including three foreign journalists, Britons Sue Turton and Dominic Kane who work for al-Jazeera, and Dutch freelance journalist Rena Netjes. All fled Egypt before being charged.

Egyptian authorities accuse the journalists of holding illegal meetings with the Muslim Brotherhood and of establishing a media network aimed at "tarnishing Egypt's image abroad and harming its political position" following the ousting of former president Mohamed Morsi last July.

Over the last six months the case has generated sharp criticism from US and Australian authorities, press freedom groups, journalists and senior media correspondents around the world, and has prompted concerns about the future of media censorship in Egypt. Before the trial Australian premier Tony Abbott appealed to the newly-installed Egyptian president Abdul Fattah al-Sisi for the release of Greste.

The case has also strained relations between Egypt and Qatar, which is the home of the al-Jazeera news network as well as being viewed as a strong supporter of the Muslim Brotherhood. Al-Jazeera denies the charges which it describes as “absurd, baseless and false.”