Egypt sentences 3 Al Jazeera reporters to 3 years in prison
(L-R) Al Jazeera English producer Baher Mohamed; Canadian-Egyptian acting Cairo bureau chief Mohammed Fahmy; correspondent Peter Greste appear in court
An Egyptian court on Saturday sentenced three Al Jazeera English journalists to three years in prison, the last twist in a long-running trial criticized worldwide by press freedom advocates and human rights activists.
The case against Canadian national Mohammed Fahmy, Australian journalist Peter Greste and Egyptian producer Baher Mohammed embroiled their journalism into the wider conflict between Egypt and Qatar following the 2013 military ouster of President Mohammed Mursi.
It wasn't immediately clear how the sentence would affect the three men. Greste, deported in February, spoke to Al Jazeera from Sydney and criticized the verdict. Mostefa Souag, Al Jazeera English acting director-general, also criticized the verdict, saying it "'defies logic and common sense."
"The whole case has been heavily politicized and has not been conducted in a free and fair manner," Souag said in a statement. "There is no evidence proving that our colleagues in any way fabricated news or aided and abetted terrorist organizations and at no point during the long drawn out retrial did any of the unfounded allegations stand up to scrutiny."
What led to the arrests
The case began in December 2013, when Egyptian security forces raided the upscale hotel suite used by Al Jazeera at the time to report from Egypt. Authorities arrested Fahmy, Greste and Mohammed, later charging them with allegedly being part of the Brotherhood, which authorities have declared a terrorist organization, and airing falsified footage intended to damage national security.
Since Mursi's ouster, Egypt has cracked down heavily on his supporters, and the journalists were accused of being mouthpieces for the Brotherhood. Al Jazeera and the journalists have denied the allegations, saying they were simply reporting the news.
Egypt deported Greste in February, though he remained charged in the case. Fahmy and Mohammed were later released on bail.
Fahmy was asked to give up his Egyptian nationality by Egyptian officials in order to qualify for deportation. It's not clear why he was deported, though Fahmy said he thinks Canada could have pressed Cairo harder on the matter.
Angered by Al Jazeera handling of the case, Fahmy has filed a lawsuit in Canada seeking $100 million from the broadcaster, saying that it put the story ahead of employee safety and used its Arabic-language channels to advocate for the Brotherhood. Al Jazeera has said Fahmy should seek compensation from Egypt.