Sound death knell for freedom of expression in Egypt

Guilty verdict against journalists affront to justice

GMT 05:37 2015 Sunday ,30 August

Arab Today, arab today Guilty verdict against journalists affront to justice

Al-Jazeera English journalist Mohamed Fahmy (L) and his colleague Baher Mohamed
Cairo - Arab Today

The guilty verdicts handed down against Al Jazeera journalists Mohamed Fahmy and Baher Mohamed are an affront to justice that sound the death knell for freedom of expression in Egypt, said Amnesty International.

The Cairo criminal court ruled that the journalists broadcasted “false news” and worked without registration, sentencing Mohamed Fahmy to three years in prison and Baher Mohamed to three and a half years in prison. Their co-defendant, Al Jazeera journalist Peter Greste, was convicted in his absence and sentence to three years in prison.

“This is a farcical verdict which strikes at the heart of freedom of expression in Egypt. The charges against Mohamed Fahmy, Peter Greste and Baher Mohamed were always baseless and politicized, and they should never have been arrested and tried in the first place,” said Philip Luther, Director for the Middle East and North Africa at Amnesty International.

“The fact that two of these journalists are now facing time in jail following two grossly unfair trials makes a mockery of justice in Egypt. Today’s verdict must be overturned immediately – Mohamed Fahmy and Baher Mohamed should be allowed to walk free without conditions. We consider them to be prisoners of conscience, jailed solely for exercising their right to freedom of expression.”

Amnesty International is also urging the Egyptian authorities to facilitate Mohamed Fahmy’s request for deportation from Egypt to Canada.

Mohamed Fahmy and Baher Mohamed had been on bail since Egypt’s highest court of appeal overturned their previous conviction on 1 January 2015. They were previously serving seven and 10-year prison sentences respectively. Both men can now appeal the verdict once more before the Court of Cassation.

The court also sentenced a group of Egyptians tried in their presence on similar charges to three years, including students who said that security forces had beaten them following their arrest last year.

One student told the court in a recent hearing that security forces had tortured him after re-arresting him in early June. The authorities should ensure a prompt, independent and impartial investigation is conducted into the defendants’ allegations of torture and other ill-treatment.

“Today’s ruling is sadly only the tip of the iceberg. The Egyptian authorities are relentlessly cracking down on independent and critical media across the country to silence dissent – including foreign reporting. Dozens of journalists have been arrested over the past two years, and over 20 are today in detention,” said Philip Luther.

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