UK & World News

  • 23 June 2014, 19:05

Al Jazeera Journalists Jailed For Seven Years

Three Al Jazeera journalists have each been jailed for seven years in Egypt after being found guilty of aiding terrorism.

Australian Peter Greste, Canadian-Egyptian national Mohammed Fahmy and Egyptian Baher Mohamed watched from cages as they were convicted of spreading false news and supporting the Muslim Brotherhood.

Mr Mohamed received an additional three years on a separate charge involving possession of weapons.

The case has provoked outrage from freedom of speech activists, who say it was politicised, while David Cameron was said by Downing Street to be "completely appalled" by the verdict.

The White House called for pardons or sentence commutations for the journalists and for clemency in all politically motivated sentences.

The families of the men - who had denied all the allegations against them in Cairo - collapsed in tears as the sentences were read out.

Greste, a former BBC correspondent, had been in Egypt on a relief posting for just two weeks when the group was detained in December.

His brother Andrew, who will visit him tomorrow, told Australia's ABC 730 show he was "gutted" but that "we're not going to give up the fight".

Fahmy's brother Adel said: "This is not a system. This is not a country. They've ruined our lives. It shows everything that's wrong with the system: it's corrupt. This country is corrupt through and through."

Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop said she was "shocked and deeply dismayed" by the outcome and would ask the Egyptian government to intervene. 

Her UK counterpart, William Hague, said he would also ask Cairo to review the case "as a matter of urgency".

Sky News and the BBC were among the media organisations to call for the trio's release prior to the verdict.

Sky's Middle East Correspondent, Sherine Tadros, who was in court, said: "Anyone who watched this trial has seen a complete farce. There was no evidence presented linking these journalists to a 'terrorist organisation' or the Muslim Brotherhood.

"What we've seen time and time again these past few months is a judiciary that is less interested in justice than in exacting revenge."

Another 11 defendants were sentenced in absentia to 10 years, including Al Jazeera's British journalist Sue Turton.

"We really believed the judge would recognise these were politically motivated charges," she said.

"We don't understand what it is they're accusing us of. They're trying to stop anyone having an opinion that doesn't tally with the government's narrative.

"I don't want to think about, now they're back in their prison cells, how they're coping with what happened today."

Fellow Brit Dominic Kane was also among those to receive a 10-year sentence in absentia.

The Muslim Brotherhood has been protesting against the government since the army toppled Islamist president Mohamed Morsi in July. The Egyptians labelled it a "terrorist organisation" in December.

The Gulf state of Qatar, which funds Al Jazeera, backs the Muslim Brotherhood.

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