Egypt Sentences Al-Jazeera Reporters to Prison

August 30, 2015  

An Egyptian court on Saturday sentenced three Al-Jazeera reporters to three years in prison, prompting a condemnation from the United States which called for the ruling to be overturned.

“We urge the government of Egypt to take all available measures to redress this verdict, which undermines the very freedom of expression necessary for stability and development,” State Department spokesman John Kirby said in a statement quoted by the AFP news agency.

“The United States is deeply disappointed and concerned by the verdict handed down by an Egyptian court to the three Al-Jazeera journalists – Mohamed Fahmy, Baher Mohammed, and Peter Greste,” said Kirby.

“The freedom of the press to investigate, report, and comment – even when its perspective is unpopular or disputed – is fundamental to any free society and essential to democratic development,” he added.

The court had sentenced the three journalists to three years in prison for broadcasting “false news,” according to The Associated Press (AP).

The men are now seeking a pardon from President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi, who has personally expressed regret over the long-running trial and the damage it has done to Egypt’s international reputation saying it would have been better to simply deport the journalists.

Al-Jazeera said it will also appeal the verdict, once the court releases its full ruling in the next 30 days, the news agency said.

The three were jailed by Egypt over their coverage of the violent crackdown on Islamist protests following the military overthrow of former President Mohammed Morsi of the Muslim Brotherhood. Greste  was deported to his Australia home in February, and his trial was held in absentia.

Greste said he believed an Egyptian appeals court would overturn the verdict, and called on Al-Sisi to pardon him and his colleagues, according to AP. Fahmy and Mohammed, both on hand for Saturday’s hearing, were immediately taken away by police after the hearing.

Egypt has accused Al-Jazeera in general, and its Egypt affiliate, Al-Jazeera Mubasher Misr, in particular, of doing Doha’s bidding by serving as Islamists’ mouthpiece at a time of a ferocious crackdown on their ranks.

The station denies any bias, saying it is simply covering Islamist protests, but recently shut down its Egypt channel as Qatar and Egypt attempt to rebuild their ties.

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