An Egyptian court sentenced an Al-Jazeera journalist to 10 years in prison and another two journalists for the network to seven years for false news reporting and aiding the banned Muslim Brotherhood. Six other Al-Jazeera journalists tried in absentia were also sentenced to 10 years, the Qatar-based news channel reported.
Australian Peter Greste, Egyptian Baher Mohamed and Canadian-Egyptian citizen Mohamed Fahmy were found guilty and sentenced June 23 after a trial that drew international condemnation. Mohamed was given the longest sentence as he also was convicted of a weapons charge related to a bullet casing he said he had found on the ground during a protest.
The convictions are the latest in a series of moves against the press and political dissent since the military ousted the Muslim Brotherhood’s Mohammed Morsi as president in July. The leader of that coup, Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, was elected president in May in a poll that lacked any significant opposition candidates.
All three journalists are expected to appeal the verdict. At the time of sentencing, the three journalists had already spent 177 days in a 13-foot cell. The men were arrested during a raid of a Marriot hotel in Cairo last December, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists.
Two of the journalists sentenced in absentia are British citizens, prompting Prime Minister David Cameron to summon the Egyptian ambassador to the United Kingdom’s Foreign Office following the verdict, reported the BBC.
Al-Jazeera English Managing Director Al Anstey condemned the verdict in a statement released by Al Jazeera, citing the Cairo court’s lack of evidence.
“At no point during the long drawn out 'trial' did the absurd allegations stand up to scrutiny,” Al Anstey said. “There were many moments during the hearings where in any other court of law, the trial would be thrown out.”
Observers have criticized the trial as being an extension of tension between Egypt and Qatar, which funds the Al-Jazeera media network. Diplomatic and economic relations between the two countries have been strained following the ousting of President Mohamed Morsi, who came to power with strong support from Qatar, the Washington Post reported.