Journalists' trial adjourned in Cairo

Concerns raised over freedom of speech in Egypt

Egypt's high-profile trial of 20 journalists on terror-related charges has been adjourned until 5 March, after a court hearing in Cairo's Tora Prison on 20 February.

The 20 defendants, including four foreigners, face charges of assisting or being a member of the banned Muslim Brotherhood, recently declared a terrorist organisation by Egypt's interim goverment.

Among the eight people detained are three journalists working for al-Jazeera English: Australian Peter Greste; Egyptian Baher Mohamed; and Mohamed Fadel Fahmy, an Egyptian with Canadian citizenship.

All three were arrested on 29 December on charges of spreading "false news", using unlicensed equipment and being members of a "terrorist cell."

On 20 February the three were denied bail along with five other reporters who are currently detained. The other 12 journalists are abroad and are being tried in absentia. They include three foreigners, Britons Sue Turton and Dominic Kane who work for al-Jazeera, and Dutch freelance journalist Rena Netjes, all of whom 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. Some of the charges carry sentences of up to 15 years.

The case has generated sharp criticism from US authorities, press freedom groups, journalists and senior media correspondents around the world. It 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 has consistently denied the charges which it describes as “absurd, baseless and false.”