Al-Jazeera journalist Peter Greste says jail term is ‘unjust’ and ‘plainly political’

Here are the latest developments in Egypt's retrial of three Al-Jazeera English journalists.

By: AP | Cairo | Updated: August 30, 2015 7:28 am
Al Jazeera, Al Jazeera journalists, Egypt journalists trial, Egypt journalists, World news FILE – In this Thursday, June 4, 2015 file photo, Canadian Al-Jazeera English journalist Mohammed Fahmy, left, and his Egyptian colleague Baher Mohammed listen in a courtroom in Tora prison in Cairo, Egypt. Egyptian judicial officials say a Cairo court has postponed the verdict in the retrial of three Al-Jazeera English reporters until Aug. 2. (AP Photo/Amr Nabil, File)

3:45 p.m.

The lawyer for Al-Jazeera English correspondent Peter Greste says his three-year jail sentence in Egypt is “unjust” and “plainly political.”

Greste was sentenced on Saturday, along with producer Baher Mohammed and acting Cairo bureau chief Mohammed Fahmy, to three years in prison. The men were arrested in December 2013 but Greste, an Australian citizen, was deported in February.

In a statement, Greste’s lawyer Chris Flynn, says the men’s re-trial, “was a sham and was miscarried at every step.”

Flynn appealed to Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi to intervene and pardon the men, saying that el-Sissi, “now has an opportunity to correct this great injustice.”

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3:25 p.m.

Australia’s Minister for Foreign Affairs Julie Bishop says she is “dismayed” by the three-year jail sentences handed to three Al-Jazeera English journalists in Egypt. The three men include correspondent Peter Greste, an Australian citizen, who was deported from Egypt in February.

In a statement issued by the ministry on Saturday, Bishop says she has spoken with Greste and will “continue to pursue all diplomatic avenue with my Egyptian counterpart” to clear Greste’s name.

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2:35 p.m.

Al-Jazeera officials have vowed to free its imprisoned journalists in Egypt after a judge sentenced three of them to three-year prison sentences.

Giles Trendle, Al-Jazeera English’s acting managing director, made the comments Saturday in a short televised news conference from the satellite news network’s headquarters in Doha, Qatar.

Trendle called the ruling “a dark day for the Egyptian judiciary” and said the network had “comprehensibly debunked” the claims laid out in Judge Hassan Farid’s verdict.

Trendle said the network would “continue and escalate our campaign” to free the imprisoned journalists. He also added: “Journalism is not a crime.”

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2:25 p.m.

Britain’s Middle East Minister, Tobias Ellwood, says he is “deeply concerned” by the sentences handed to the three Al-Jazeera English journalists in Egypt.

Ellwood said Saturday: “These sentences will undermine confidence in Egypt’s progress towards strong long-term stability based on implementing the rights granted by the Egyptian constitution.”

He added: “We have repeatedly raised this case and the restrictions on freedom of expression in Egypt with ministers and senior officials. We note that the case can be appealed, and will monitor future developments closely.”

He also urged Egyptian authorities to “take urgent action to resolve the position of the two British nationals in this case.” Britons Sue Turton and Dominic Kane are among several Al-Jazeera journalists convicted in absentia by Egyptian courts.

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2:20 p.m.

Veteran journalists in Pakistan have condemned the sentencing of three Al-Jazeera English journalists to prison for three years in Egypt and called for their immediate release.

Zahid Hussain, a senior journalist in the capital, Islamabad, said Saturday’s court verdict was “an attack on the freedom of the press” and demanded the release of the three journalists.

Chaudhry Khadim Hussain, a senior member of Pakistan’s Federal Union of Journalists, also criticized the Egyptian court.

Hussain said: “Journalists should not be tried for doing their professional work.” He called the Egyptian court verdict an attack on media freedom.

Mohammed Fahmy, Peter Greste and Baher Mohammed were detained in December 2013 in Cairo while working for the Doha-based network.

1:45 p.m.

A Canadian government official is calling for the immediate release of Mohammed Fahmy, one of the three Al-Jazeera journalists sentenced to three years in prison by an Egyptian court.

Canadian Minister of State for Consular Affairs Lynne Yelich issued a statement Saturday after the court verdict. She said the court’s decision “severely undermines confidence in the rule of law in Egypt.” Yelich said: “The government of Canada continues to call on the Egyptian government to use all tools at its disposal to resolve Mr. Fahmy’s case and allow his immediate return to Canada.”

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Amid his case, Fahmy was asked to give up his Egyptian nationality by Egyptian officials in order to qualify for deportation. It’s not clear why he wasn’t deported like his Australian colleague Peter Greste, though Fahmy has said he thinks Canada could have pressed Cairo harder on the matter.

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1:30 p.m.

The Committee to Protect Journalists has criticized an Egyptian court for sentencing three Al-Jazeera English journalists to prison for three years.

In a statement, the New York-based advocacy group called Saturday’s verdict “emblematic of the threats faced by journalists in Egypt.” It said at least 22 journalists are behind bars in Egypt.

Sherif Mansour, the committee’s Middle East and North Africa Program coordinator, said: “This trial has been carried out with no evidence and has caused great pain to Mohammed Fahmy, Baher Mohammed, Peter Greste and their families. We call on Egyptian authorities to put an end to the abuse of the law which has made Egypt one of the riskiest countries in the world to be a journalist.”

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12:30 p.m.

Peter Greste, one of the three Al-Jazeera journalists sentenced to three years in prison by an Egyptian court, says he’s worried about the fate of his other two colleagues.

Greste made the comments to his satellite network Saturday after the verdict. Greste was deported from Egypt in February and now is in Australia.

His colleagues, Canadian national Mohammed Fahmy and Egyptian producer Baher Mohammed, attended the Egyptian hearing and were immediately taken away by police after the verdict.

Greste said he worries about Fahmy and Mohammed going back into Egypt’s “terrifyingly overcrowded” prisons. He said: “The conditions are really, really tough, particularly now at the height of summer. I cannot imagine what they are going to be feeling when they go back there.”

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11:45 a.m.

Amnesty International has condemned the three-year prison sentences given to three Al-Jazeera English journalists, calling them the “death knell for freedom of expression in Egypt.”

Amnesty issued its statement Saturday after the court hearing in Cairo for Canadian national Mohammed Fahmy, Australian journalist Peter Greste and Egyptian producer Baher Mohammed. Mohammed got an additional six months for having a “bullet” in his possession.

Philip Luther, the director of Amnesty’s Middle East and North Africa program, said: “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.”

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11:30 a.m.

Human rights lawyer Amal Clooney has criticized the three-year prison sentences handed down to three Al-Jazeera English journalists.

Speaking Saturday immediately after the verdict, she told journalists that “everyone has said there is no evidence to sustain any of the charges.”

Clooney said: “The verdict today sends a very dangerous message in Egypt. It sends a message that journalists can be locked up for simply doing their job, for telling the truth and reporting the news. And it sends a dangerous message that there are judges in Egypt who will allow their courts to become instruments of political repression and propaganda.”

Clooney represented Canadian national Mohammed Fahmy, who was Al-Jazeera’s acting bureau chief in Cairo. Fahmy was sentenced along with Australian journalist Peter Greste and Egyptian producer Baher Mohammed.

Clooney added that she hoped Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi would pardon the three journalists.

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11:15 a.m.

One of the three Al-Jazeera English journalists sentenced to three years in prison in an Egyptian court will spend another six months behind bars.

The additional sentence Saturday affected Egyptian producer Baher Mohammed. A transcript of the court decision, carried by Egypt’s state news agency MENA, said he received the additional time for being in possession of a “bullet.”

At their initial trial, journalists Peter Greste and Mohammed Fahmy received a seven-year prison sentence while Mohammed received a 10-year sentence for also being found with a spent bullet casing. It wasn’t immediately clear why Saturday’s verdict referred to a “bullet,” rather than a spent bullet casing.

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11 a.m.

The Egyptian judge who sentenced three Al-Jazeera English journalists to three years in prison says he did so because they weren’t registered with the country’s journalist syndicate.

Judge Hassan Farid handed down his sentence on Saturday morning. Farid also said the journalists brought equipment without the approval of security officials into Egypt, as well as spread “false news” and used a hotel as a broadcasting point without permission.

Canadian national Mohammed Fahmy, Australian journalist Peter Greste and Egyptian producer Baher Mohammed were all sentenced to three years in prison.

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10:50 a.m.

Al-Jazeera English acting director-general is saying an Egyptian court verdict against three of its journalists “defies logic and common sense.”

Mostefa Souag made the statement immediately after a Cairo court on Saturday sentenced Canadian national Mohammed Fahmy, Australian journalist Peter Greste and Egyptian producer Baher Mohammed to three years in prison.

Souag said: “The whole case has been heavily politicized and has not been conducted in a free and fair manner. 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.”

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10:32 a.m.

An Egyptian court has sentenced three Al-Jazeera English journalists to three years in prison.

The court issued the verdict Saturday in the long-running trial criticized worldwide by press freedom advocates and human rights activists.

The three Al-Jazeera journalists — Canadian national Mohammed Fahmy, Australian journalist Peter Greste and Egyptian producer Baher Mohammed — were detained in December 2013 while working for the Doha-based network.

The three first were sentenced to prison before Egypt’s highest court ordered a retrial on charges of them allegedly being part of the Muslim Brotherhood, which authorities have declared a terrorist organization, and airing falsified footage intended to damage national security.

Egypt deported Greste in February. Fahmy and Mohammed were later released on bail.

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9:45 a.m.

Amal Clooney has arrived in an Egyptian court to represent one of the three Al-Jazeera English journalists on trial.

Saturday marked Clooney’s first time for her to appear in court in Egypt to represent Canadian national Mohammed Fahmy.

Egypt’s state news agency MENA has reported a verdict in the case was expected to be issued Saturday.

The three Al-Jazeera journalists — Canadian national Mohammed Fahmy, Australian journalist Peter Greste and Egyptian producer Baher Mohammed — were detained in December 2013 while working for the Doha-based network.

The three first were sentenced to prison before Egypt’s highest court ordered a retrial on charges of them allegedly being part of the Muslim Brotherhood, which authorities have declared a terrorist organization, and airing falsified footage intended to damage national security.

Egypt deported Greste in February. Fahmy and Mohammed were later released on bail.

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9:20 a.m.

Egypt’s state news agency is reporting that a verdict is expected soon in the case of three Al-Jazeera English journalists.

MENA reported the verdict was to be issued Saturday in the long-running trial criticized worldwide by press freedom advocates and human rights activists.

The three Al-Jazeera journalists — Canadian national Mohammed Fahmy, Australian journalist Peter Greste and Egyptian producer Baher Mohammed — were detained in December 2013 while working for the Doha-based network.

The three first were sentenced to prison before Egypt’s highest court ordered a retrial on charges of them allegedly being part of the Muslim Brotherhood, which authorities have declared a terrorist organization, and airing falsified footage intended to damage national security.

Egypt deported Greste in February. Fahmy and Mohammed were later released on bail.

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