Egypt - Judicial sham must end with acquittal of all Al-Jazeera journalists

Reporters Without Borders reiterates its call for the acquittal of Al-Jazeera English journalists Mohamed Fadel Fahmy, Baher Mohamed and Peter Greste when the Cairo court that has retried them finally issues its verdict.

This is now scheduled to happen tomorrow after two postponements since 30 July. The three journalists were released provisionally in February after being held for more than 400 days.

Peter Greste, who is Australian, is being tried in absentia after being deported back to his country of origin under a presidential decree in February.

Charged with “supporting a terrorist organization” and disseminating “false news,” the three journalists were given sentences ranging from seven to ten years in prison at the end of their first trial in June 2014. Five other Al-Jazeera journalists, including two Egyptians, were tried in absentia at the same time and were given ten-year jail terms.

In January 2015, the Court of Cassation ordered a retrial on the grounds that insufficient evidence was presented at the first trial.

The trial of Al-Jazeera’s journalists, which also seems to be a political trial of Al-Jazeera itself, is symptomatic of the state of freedom of information today in Egypt,” Reporters Without Borders secretary-general Christophe Deloire said. “We urge the Egyptian authorities to terminate the trial by dismissing all charges against the journalists. This judicial sham must end with everyone being acquitted.”

The Egyptian regime is past master at silencing dissent, usually in the name of national security and combatting terrorism. The latest example is the censorship of three newspapers in the past two weeks for articles critical of President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi.

With at least 15 journalists detained in connection with their work, Egypt is the world’s fourth biggest prison for media personnel (after China, Eritrea and Iran) and is ranked 158th out of 180 countries in the 2015 Reporters Without Borders press freedom index.