Sign up for PM Award Updates!

Egypt says lack of evidence led to Jazeera retrial

February 9, 2015

An Egyptian court said it ordered a retrial of Al-Jazeera journalists due to a lack of evidence showing their alleged links to the blacklisted Muslim Brotherhood, state media reported Monday.

The Court of Cassation had on January 1 ordered a retrial of three Al-Jazeera journalists, overturning a lower court’s verdict which found them guilty of aiding the Islamist movement.

The lower court had sentenced Australian Peter Greste, Canadian-Egyptian Mohamed Fahmy and Egyptian producer Baher Mohamed to up to 10 years in jail for spreading “false news” during their coverage of protests after the ouster of president Mohamed Morsi in 2013.

The three were arrested in December 2013 just days after the authorities designated the Brotherhood as a “terrorist group”.

Greste was deported on February 1 under a presidential decree after the retrial was ordered.

In a bid to secure his own deportation, Fahmy has renounced his Egyptian nationality and is awaiting a return to Canada, where he also has citizenship.

However, the third journalist, producer Mohamed, remains in jail as he only has Egyptian nationality.

The three journalists were among 20 defendants initially tried by the lower court.

Of the rest, 12 were Egyptians who were found guilty of belonging to a “terrorist organisation”.

Two defendants were acquitted, while the remaining three — also foreigners — were convicted in absentia for spreading “false news”.

On Monday the Court of Cassation gave its reasoning for overturning the lower court’s ruling.

“The criminal court’s verdict lacked evidence to support its ruling,” the appeals court said, according to state news agency MENA.

“The criminal court was hasty in pronouncing its verdict.

“The court did not wait for medical and legal reports which it had requested after several defendants spoke of being under physical and moral pressure” to make confessions, the appeals court said.

The initial trial came against the backdrop of strained relations between Egypt and Qatar, which supported the Islamist movement of Morsi, whom then army chief and now President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi deposed on July 3, 2013.

Since Morsi’s ouster, a government crackdown against his supporters has left hundreds dead and seen thousands jailed.

Dispatches from AFP concerning freedom of information, censorship and news coverage in regions where independent media is under threat.