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Published On: Tue, Jun 24th, 2014

Outrage over sentencing of Aljazeera journalists in Egypt

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By Maryam Garba Hassan with agency report

Outrage from different parts of the world has continued to trail the verdict passed by an Egypt court in Cairo on 3 Aljazeera journalists arrested and held since December, 2013 in a Cairo prison, as part of crackdown on supporters of ousted President Morsi.

The verdict has sparked international outcry and condemnation of the North African country from journalists, world leaders and activists who expressed disappointment with the judgment passed by the judge.

The trio including Canadian-Egyptian acting Cairo bureau chief Mohammed Fahmy and Egyptian producer Baher Mohammed were arrested on December 29 after a raid on their Cairo hotel room they were using as an office and denied the accusations, saying they were just doing their job.

Thethree Al Jazeera English journalists were convicted in Egypt on Monday, of aiding the Muslim Brotherhood, spreading false news and endangering national security.

The journalists and their supporters have said they were simply doing their jobs, covering the wave of protests led by the Brotherhood against the military-backed government installed after Morsi was ousted on July 3, by then-army chief, Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi, who is now the president.

Two defendants among 14 others on trial in the case were acquitted, including the son of Mohammed el-Beltagy, a senior figure in the Muslim Brotherhood.

Prosecutors were criticized for presenting evidence that was purportedly made up or irrelevant to the case, like videos of Greste’s old news reports from other countries.

Greste, a native of Australia and a former BBC correspondent, and Fahmy, a journalist formerly employed by CNN, was sentenced to seven years behind bars while Mohamed was sentenced to a decade seven years for one charge and three years for a second.

However, the Egyptian President Sisi, late yesterday dashed hopes of a prompt resolution, declaring that local authorities will not interfere in judicial matters.

A government official in Egypt said Mr. Sisi cannot legally pardon Greste until a final ruling from the appeal court.

Egypt is facing threats to its aid payments and a tourism boycott amid international outrage over the verdict.

According to reports, presently there are 167 journalists imprisoned around the world, including the three Al Jazeera journalists sentenced Monday, according to Reporters Without Borders.

China has the largest number of journalists behind bars, with 32, followed by Eritrea (28) and Syria (16), the media freedom organization says.

Twenty-eight journalists have been killed doing their jobs this year, the group says.

Reporters without Borders ranks Egypt 159 out of 180 countries for media freedom.

According to the Committee to Project Journalists, at least 14 journalists are imprisoned in Egypt and more than 65 journalists have been detained since Morsi was ousted in July.

David Cameron said that he was ‘completely appalled’ by the verdicts against the journalists while Foreign Secretary William Hague summoned the Egyptian ambassador in London for crisis talks.

Calls to boycott Egypt and cut aid over jailing of the three Al Jazeera journalists has been made. On Monday, Canadian Minister of State Lynne Yelich said in a statement that Canada is “very disappointed with the verdict.”

Three other international journalists, Sue Turton and Dominic Kane of Al Jazeera and Rena Netjes, a correspondent for Dutch newspaper Parool were sentenced in absentia to 10 years, reports said, adding that the journalists are expected to appeal, according to the non-profit Committee to Protect Journalists, which advocates for media freedom worldwide.

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