Egypt sentences journalists to three years in jail

Al-Jazeera reporters convicting of aiding the Muslim Brotherhoodand spreading false news

A Cairo court has handed down a three-year jail sentence to three Al-Jazeera English journalists whose 20-month legal battle has attracted widespread condemnation from press advocates and human rights groups since their arrest in December 2013.

Following a retrial the three reporters were convicted on 29 August of colluding with the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood, producing news reports that contained "false news", and working as journalists without a press licence.

The convicted journalists are Mohamed Fadel Fahmy, a naturalised Canadian who gave up his Egyptian citizenship, and Egyptian Baher Mohamed, and their Australian colleague Peter Greste who was convicted in absentia after being deported to his home country in February.

The verdict was not expected and triggered an angry response as Fahmy and Mohamed were taken into custody from the packed courtroom in Cairo's notorious Tora jail, where they had already spent 400 days.

Speaking from Australia on 30 August, Greste said that he was "absolutely devastated" and urged the international community to step up pressure on the Egyptian government to "undo the injustice" meted out to him and his two colleagues. Australia's foreign minister Julie Bishop said she was "dismayed" by the sentences while Mostefa Souag, Al-Jazeera English acting director-general, said the verdict “defies logic and common sense”.

The three al-Jazeera journalists received lengthy jail terms in June 2014 after being convicted of supporting the Muslim Brotherhood, a movement classified as a terrorist organisation by Egyptian authorities. Fahmy and Greste were both sentenced to seven years in prison while Mohamed received a ten-year sentence.

However Greste was released “unconditionally” from Tora prison on 2 February and returned immediately to Australia. Ten days after Greste was freed, his colleagues Fahmy and Mohamed were released on bail, after their convictions for spreading false news to help a terrorist group, namely the Muslim Brotherhood, were overturned on appeal.

The court ordered a retrial due to lack of evidence leading to the journalists' conviction of "conspiring with the Muslim Brotherhood.” The three journalists have all consistently denied all charges against them. Egyptian authorities accuse the Qatar-funded Al-Jazeera of supporting the Muslim Brotherhood, which President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi set about eliminating after its democratically elected president, Mohamed Morsi, was ousted from power in a military coup in 2013.