In an extremely controversial judgement, an Egyptian court has convicted three al-Jazeera journalists “spreading false news” sentencing them to three years in prison at their retrial in Cairo.
These journalists are former BBC anchor, Peter Greste, Canadian-Egyptian Mohamed Fahmy and Egyptian Baher Mohamed.
While Fahmy and Mohamed were present in the court, the verdict on Peter was pronounced in absentia as he had been deported back to his native country Australia earlier this year.
Judge Hassan Farid said the three men were not registered journalists and had been operating from a Cairo hotel without a licence.
The court found them guilty of ‘aiding’ the Muslim Brotherhood Muslim Brotherhood, which was toppled through a brutal military coup by the then defence minister General Al-Sisi in June 2012.
Reacting to the judgement, Peter, tweeted, ” Shocked. Outraged. Angry. Upset. None of them convey how I feel right now. 3 year sentence for Fahmey, Mohamed and me is so wrong.”
— Peter Greste (@PeterGreste) August 29, 2015
Fahmy’s lawyer, Amal Clooney, urged Al-Sisi to issue pardon to these journalists as it sent ‘ a very dangerous message.’
She said, “”The verdict today sends a very dangerous message in Egypt. “It sends a message that journalists can be locked up for simply doing their job, for telling the truth and reporting the news.”
A court had earlier sentenced Peter and Fahmy seven years of jail term each while awarding 10-year prison sentence to Mohamed.
More recently, a court in Cairo had ordered death sentence to Mohammed Morsi, the President General Al-Sisi had removed through a military coup before placing him under prolonged detention.
Egyptian courts are known to have biases in favour of military dictators and were very active in their protests against Morsi-led government in 2012 even going on strike in support of the President’s detractors.