The Egyptian authorities have not been receptive to international pressure in favor of press freedom. A Cairo court has sentenced Monday to prison terms of between seven and 10 years in prison to a group of journalists from Al Jazeera accused of spreading false news to favor the case of the Muslim Brotherhood, the Islamist movement that ruled Egypt until the coup of last summer. Among them include the Australian reporter Peter Greste.
The trial, which had attracted considerable international interest, represents a new example of the crackdown launched by the Egyptian regime to silence any dissenting voices, whether in the political or media level. During the past year, has killed more than 2,000 people in clashes with security forces, and have arrested more than 20,000 people, mostly supporters of the Brotherhood.
Of the 20 defendants in this process, 11 were tried in absentia, and they all received a punishment of 10 years in prison. Corresponded to the same penalty producer Al Jazeera Baher Mohamed. Instead, his colleagues Peter Greste and Mohamed Fahmy were sentenced to seven years, as well as four students who had provided images to the station I catarí not be employees. Two other young men, one of them the son of the leader of the Brotherhood Mohamed Beltagy, were acquitted.
The three reporters from Al Jazeera English were arrested in late December last year, just hours after meeting in hotel with a representative of the Muslim Brotherhood. Few days ago, the Islamic brotherhood had been declared a ” terrorist organization ” by the Egyptian government, so reporters were accused of belonging to or collaborating with a terrorist group. Families of convicts are convinced that they are victims of the war between Al Jazeera and the Egyptian authorities that erupted after the coup.
“The verdict shows that this is a political trial. During the hearings, has not presented any evidence that they had manipulated the information. We did not expect this result. We are shattered, “said Mike Greste, brother of Australian reporter, at the gates of Tora Prison, home of the court. Meanwhile, the Australian government has been “shocked ” by the verdict.
“We’re going to appeal to the court of appeal because there have been many serious procedural flaws. For example, we are not allowed to see the evidence presented by the prosecution, which is absolutely illegal, “said Said Shaaban, member of the defense team. To show how the trial is a farce, Said explained that the three years of additional prison Mohamed Baher producer taxes are due to he had in his room a bullet cap collected as souvenirs of a demonstration.
After the judge passing sentence, the eight defendants present in the cage sang a revolutionary song that accompanied after proclamations against the regime. ” Things fall, which the military government fall! ” They shouted, while on the banks of the court scenes of grief among relatives of convicted occurred.
Freedom of expression was one of the first victims of the military coup, as within weeks several TV Islamist trend were closed. The Committee to Protect Journalists, currently about two dozen reporters were detained in Egypt that has emerged over the last year in one of the five most dangerous for developing countries journalism.
” This is a very clear message to all journalists about what can happen if you go against the official narrative of the facts,” said Mohamed Lotfi, an Amnesty International observer has been in the 12 sessions of the process. The Egyptian government has repeatedly accused Al Jazeera of presenting biased information about events in Egypt safeguarding the interests of the Brotherhood, which Al Jazeera has always denied. Al Jazeera is owned by the ruler of Qatar, which was the closest ally of the administration of former president Mohamed Morsi family.