Egypt sentences Al Jazeera journalists to seven years

Jun 23, 2014

Three reporters found guilty of supporting the Muslim Brotherhood and spreading false news


Three Al Jazeera journalists accused of supporting the Muslim Brotherhood and spreading false news have been sentenced to seven years in prison in Egypt.

In a case that caused international outcry, the journalists were detained in December and were among 20 people to be tried together, including six other Al Jazeera staff.

Today the court convicted Australian correspondent Peter Greste, Canadian-Egyptian bureau chief Mohammed Fahmy and Egyptian producer Baher Mohammed. All three denied the charges. Mohammed was sentenced to three extra years on a separate charge, while three other foreign journalists tried in absentia received ten-year sentences.

The Muslim Brotherhood, which supported Egypt's deposed president Mohammed Morsi, was listed as a "terrorist" organisation by the interim Egyptian government shortly before the accused were arrested.

In Egyptian media, the group on trial is known as "the Marriott cell", after the hotel where Fahmy and Greste were arrested. Five students with links to Islamist protests and the head of an Islamic charity were also tried alongside the journalists in what The Guardian describes as an attempt to portray them as "masterminds of a Muslim-Brotherhood-linked plot to smear Egypt's reputation".

The journalists and students say they never met each other before arriving at court for the first time in February.

BBC correspondent Christian Fraser says the evidence put forward in court did nothing to support the allegations. This included photographs from Greste's family holiday, a Sky Arabia report on cruelty to horses, a video of a press conference in Nairobi and a song by Australian singer Gotye.

Australian prime minister Tony Abbott appealed to Egyptian president Abdul Fattah al-Sisi for Greste's release. Abbott said he told Sisi that "as an Australian journalist, Peter Greste would not have been supporting the Muslim Brotherhood, he would have simply been reporting on the Muslim Brotherhood".

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