الجمعة , مايو 21 2021

Shock at al-Jazeera Egypt sentences

Peter Greste, Mohamed Fahmy and Baher Mohamed (L-R) listen to the ruling in court in CairoThe three men are expected to appeal against their verdict

The seven-year jail terms handed out to three al-Jazeera journalists accused of supporting Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood have led to an international outcry.

US Secretary of State John Kerry described the sentences as “chilling and draconian”.

James Harding, the BBC’s Director of News, said it was an “act of intimidation against all journalists.”

Peter Greste, Mohamed Fahmy and Baher Mohamed were convicted of spreading false news on Monday.

The trio had denied the charges and are expected to appeal against the verdict.

Mr Kerry said he had called the Egyptian foreign minister immediately after the sentence, and that he discussed these cases with President Abdul Fattah al-Sisi on Sunday, during his visit to Cairo as part of a regional tour.

Mr Kerry added it was now critical for the Egyptian president to move quickly to address international concerns on this.

Judge Mohamed Nagui Shehata delivers his sentence to the three al-Jazeera journalists in Cairo - 23 June 2014The sentences, delivered by Judge Mohamed Nagui Shehata, have been widely condemned

The BBC’s Bethany Bell in Cairo says that while the case has been condemned around the world, it has been presented differently by the Egyptian media.

Al-Jazeera, which is based in Qatar, was banned from operating inside Egypt after being accused of broadcasting reports sympathetic to former President Mohammed Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood. Al-Jazeera has consistently denied the allegations.

Human rights group Amnesty said the trial was a “vindictive farce” and part of the “ongoing row” between Egypt and Qatar, which backs the Muslim Brotherhood.

Philip Luther, the group’s Middle East and North Africa director, said it was “a dark day for media freedom in Egypt, when journalists are being locked up and branded criminals or ‘terrorists’ simply for doing their job.”

‘It defies all logic’

Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop told reporters she was “bitterly disappointed” by the outcome. Greste, a former BBC journalist, is an Australian citizen.

“We are deeply dismayed that a sentence has been imposed and appalled at the severity of it,” she added.

Peter Greste's parents, Lois and Juris,

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Peter Greste’s parents were being filmed as they heard the news

Peter Greste’s brother Michael – who is in Cairo – said he had spoken to his parents in Australia by phone shortly after the verdict.

“It was a very difficult phone call to make. They’re especially distraught and very upset by the decision. We’re all very confused about the ruling that was made today. To us it defies all logic,” he said.

“They just ruined a family,” said Fahmy’s brother, Adel, who attended the hearing, adding he had little faith in the system. “Everything is corrupt,” he said.


Christian Fraser, BBC News, Cairo

Peter Greste has spent six months in a 4m (13ft) cell with his two al-Jazeera colleagues, locked down for 23 hours a day with only a small window for light. The Tora prison is a “hell hole” says Greste’s brother, Michael. “But he is strong and he will survive.”

That resilience was on show when the prisoners came into court. They waved at friends and family and hugged each other, hoping their ordeal was now ending.

The judge, wearing sunglasses, looked unmoved by the scores of cameras there to record the verdict. Last week he sentenced 14 people to death, including the father of one of the students now standing in the cage.

As he heard the verdict, Peter Greste punched the cage in frustration. Mohamed Fahmy screamed in defiance. “He needs surgery, he has done nothing wrong,” his mother wailed. Fahmy spent the first few weeks of his detention sleeping on the floor with a dislocated shoulder.

The BBC’s Andrew Harding: It could be any of us in that cage

Dismay in Australia over sentencing of high-profile journalist

Reaction on Twitter: Journalists and politicians outraged


Eleven defendants tried in absentia, including three foreign journalists, received 10-year sentences. Two of the journalists convicted in absentia are British.

British Prime Minister David Cameron said he was “completely appalled” and the UK Foreign Office has summoned the Egyptian ambassador over the guilty verdicts.

British Ambassador James Watt, who also attended the Cairo hearing, said he was “very disappointed” by the verdict. “Freedom of expression is fundamental to any democracy,” he said.

In a statement, al-Jazeera English’s managing director Al Anstey said the sentence “defies logic, sense, and any semblance of justice”.

Bill Shorten, leader of Australian Labor Party, tweeted: “Awful news about Peter Greste – journalists should not be jailed for doing their job #FreeAJStaff”.

Julie Bishop

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Australia’s Foreign Minister Julie Bishop: ”I am bitterly disappointed”

UN human rights chief Navi Pillay said she was “shocked and alarmed” by the sentencing and accused Egypt’s authorities of “crushing” the media.

Jeremy Bowen, BBC Middle East Editor, tweeted: “Disgraceful 7 year sentences handed down to Al Jazeera journalists in Cairo. Egyptian euphoria after Mubarak’s fall feels a world away.”

James Harding said that the BBC, alongside other broadcasters and news organisations, would be submitting a letter to President Sisi asking him to address “this injustice”.

BBC News staff will be holding a one minute silent protest outside their New Broadcasting House offices on Tuesday at 09:41 BST (08:41 GMT), the time of Monday’s verdict.

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