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ARAB REPUBLIC OF EGYPT: Retrial of Al Jazeera journalists must pave way to their unconditional freedom

10 Jan 2015
[International Secretariat]
Region: ARAB REPUBLIC OF EGYPT
Topic: Year of Rebellion Human rights in the Middle East and North Africa

Al-Jazeera news channel's Australian journalist Peter Greste (L) and his colleagues, Egyptian-Canadian Mohamed Fadel Fahmy (C) and Egyptian Baher Mohamed , in the Egyptian court last year.(C)AFP/Getty Images
Al-Jazeera news channel's Australian journalist Peter Greste (L) and his colleagues, Egyptian-Canadian Mohamed Fadel Fahmy (C) and Egyptian Baher Mohamed , in the Egyptian court last year.(C)AFP/Getty Images

An Egyptian court’s call for a retrial of three jailed Al Jazeera journalists acknowledges major flaws in the original convictions but leaves the men in unjust incarceration, Amnesty International said today.

The Court of Cassation, Egypt’s highest court of law, ruled that there had been procedural failings in the trial of Mohamed Fahmy, Peter Greste and Baher Mohamed. The three are now set to face a retrial.

“By calling for a retrial the Egyptian courts are prolonging the injustice that the three have faced,” said Hassiba Hadjsahraoui, Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa Deputy Director.

“These men should never have been jailed in the first place and should not have to spend one more day in prison. Instead of prolonging their unjust detention pending a retrial, they must be freed immediately.”

The trio are serving sentences of between seven and 10 years for “falsifying news” and involvement with the Muslim Brotherhood movement, which the authorities allege is involved in terrorism-related activity.

The Court of Cassation did not review the facts of the case and does not have the power to acquit the men of the charges against them. However, it found that the court that jailed the men had not followed correct legal procedures.

An Amnesty International trial observer recorded several irregularities and examples of complete ineptitude during the trial proceedings.

In12 court sessions, the prosecution failed to produce a single shred of solid evidence linking the journalists to an organization involved in terrorism, or prove they had “falsified” news footage.

“All three are prisoners of conscience, targeted simply for exercising their right to freedom of expression in carrying out legitimate activities as journalists.”

At least 16,000 people have been detained as part of a sweeping crackdown on dissent in Egypt.

Those targeted include government opponents and critics, as well as media workers and human rights activists.

Meanwhile, courts have acquitted security forces of killing detainees and thrown out criminal charges against former president Hosni Mubarak for conspiring to crush the “25 January Revolution”.

“The Court of Cassation’s decision bucks the current trend in Egypt’s criminal justice system, which is more than ever becoming a rubber stamp endorsing repression by the authorities,” said Hassiba Hadjsahraoui.

1 January 2015
AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL PRESS RELEASE

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