Today’s sentencing of two Al Jazeera English journalists to seven years in jail, and another to 10 years, defies “logic, sense, and any semblance of justice,” Al Anstey, Al Jazeera English managing director, said. An Egyptian court sentenced the three journalists on charges including aiding the Muslim Brotherhood and reporting false news.
“Today three colleagues and friends were sentenced, and will continue to be kept behind bars for doing a brilliant job of being great journalists — ‘Guilty’ of covering stories with great skill and integrity. ‘Guilty’ of defending people’s right to know what is going on in their world,” Anstey said in a statement.
The guilty verdicts were announced Monday against Peter Greste, Mohamed Fahmy, and Baher Mohamed. Greste and Fahmy were sentenced to seven years in prison, while Baher Mohamed was sentenced to an additional three years for possession of ammunition. Mohamed, Al Jazeera reported this morning, was in possession of a spent bullet casing he had picked up off the ground during a protest. Other Al Jazeera journalists tried in absentia, including Sue Turton and Dominic Kane, were sentenced to 10 years.
“Peter, Mohamed, and Baher and six of our other colleagues were sentenced despite the fact that not a shred of evidence was found to support the extraordinary and false charges against them. At no point during the long drawn out ‘trial’ did the absurd allegations stand up to scrutiny,” Anstey said. “There is only one sensible outcome now – for the verdict to be overturned, and justice to be recognized by Egypt.”
Greste, Fahmy, and Mohamed were arrested in December in Cairo while reporting on the aftermath of the army’s removal of Mohamed Morsi from the presidency in July. The prosecution said Greste, Al Jazeera’s East Africa correspondent, and his Egypt bureau colleagues aided the Brotherhood and produced false news reports of the situation in Egypt.
The interim Egyptian government listed The Brotherhood, which supported Morsi, as a “terrorist” organization not long before the accused were arrested, Al Jazeera noted in its coverage of this morning’s sentencing. Al Jazeera is owned by Al Jazeera Media Network, which is financed by the ruling family of Qatar. Some media outlets, in coverage of today’s developments, have noted Qatar’s support of the Muslim Brotherhood. Al Jazeera, in turn, reported that the prosecution produced a number of items as evidence against its journalists, including a “BBC podcast, a news report made while none of the accused were in Egypt, a pop video by the Australian singer Gotye, and several recordings on non-Egyptian issues”.