The judge “bellowed” the verdict against the three journalists today, according to reports. He announced that the three were found guilty and sentenced them to three years in jail. Mohamed Fahmy, Baher Mohamed, and Peter Greste already spent more than 400 days in prison in Egypt after being arrested for “spreading false news” while working for al-Jazeera English.
The three have already been convicted, retried, acquitted, retried again. Greste, an Australian, was deported last year.
Judge Hassan Farid declared today that the court had determined that the defendants are not journalists as they are not members of Egypt’s “Journalists Syndicate,” nor had they registered with a national agency that grants foreign reporters permits to work in the country. Thus, since they are not officially journalists, they were working against the government. They had been convicted in a first trial in 2014, sentenced to seven years in prison each, retried, acquitted, retried again, and convicted again today. Another retrial is being worked on but the earliest it can start is 2016.
Because al-Jazeera is not licensed by Egypt’s current regime, one that does not much like a free press, the three were tabbed as an illegal “cell” that had “joined an outlawed group, obstructed governmental institutions and law, attacked the personal liberty of citizens or other freedoms, and harmed national unity and social peace.” Amnesty International called today’s verdict “an affront to justice that sound the death knell for freedom of expression in Egypt.”
The first trial, in 2014, was full of indications that a guilty verdict was forthcoming: prosecutors offered no evidence. As The Guardian phrased it, “As evidence, prosecutors played footage of a trotting horse from Sky News Arabia and a music video for the song ‘Somebody That I Used To Know’ by Gotye.”
The journalists were accused of joining the Muslim Brotherhood, an organization associated with the deposed and jailed former president of Egypt, Mohamed Morsi.
Greste, an Australian, was deported last year, and even though he was re-convicted today, he was convicted in absentia. Fahmy is Canadian-Egyptian and Mohamed is Egyptian, and they were present in the courtroom. Fahmy had hoped for a second acquittal today so he could return to Canada. He is also suing al-Jazeera for having placed him and his colleagues in danger.
Fahmy’s lawyer is Amal Clooney, whom the Associated Press today identified like this:
NOPE. "Amal Clooney, actor's wife" pic.twitter.com/lBR6aDAilI
— kelly oxford (@kellyoxford) August 29, 2015
The Associated Press knows better than this. To his credit, the actor referred to, George Clooney, has said in interviews that he hopes someday he will be referred to as “George Clooney, husband of famous international human rights lawyer.”
After the verdict, she spoke with reporters and declared, “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.”
The Committee to Protect Journalists denounced the conviction today and reported that 22 journalists are in jail right now in Egypt, a record number since that organization began keeping a watch on that nation, 1990.
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