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Jazeera journalists await Egypt retrial verdict

August 2, 2015

An Egyptian court is due to deliver its verdict on Sunday in the retrial of three Al-Jazeera journalists accused of supporting banned Islamists, after the judge missed a previous hearing.

The case has deeply embarrassed the government of President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, who has said he wishes the reporters were never put on trial.

The verdict had been due on Thursday but the judge, reportedly ill, did not appear.

If the judge does show up on Sunday, the verdict may come out as visiting US Secretary of State John Kerry holds talks with his Egyptian counterpart Sameh Shoukri.

A guilty verdict for the journalists, including Canadian Mohamed Fahmy and Egyptian Baher Mohamed, may further embarrass the government, as it resumes close ties with Washington after a diplomatic rift in 2013.

Fahmy, Mohamed and Australian Peter Greste were convicted last year of “spreading false news” during coverage of the turmoil after the army, then led by Sisi, overthrew Islamist president Mohamed Morsi.

Fahmy and Greste, who has since been deported, received seven-year prison terms in the original trial, while Mohamed was jailed for 10 years.

The case further strained Egypt’s ties with Western countries which had condemned a deadly crackdown on Morsi’s supporters.

An appeals court ordered a retrial, saying the original judgement lacked evidence against the three journalists, who work for the Doha-based network’s English channel.

The trial had come against the backdrop of a diplomatic spat between Egypt and Qatar, which supports Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood movement.

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