US media is reporting that Egypt has put three Al Jazeera journalists on trial on Thursday on charges of aiding members of a terrorist organization. According to a GlobalPost report:
February 20, 2014 CAIRO (Reuters) – Egypt put three Al Jazeera journalists on trial on Thursday on charges of aiding members of a ‘terrorist organization’, in a case that human rights groups say shows the authorities are trampling on freedom of expression.
The journalists, wearing white prison outfits, appeared in metal cages, a Reuters witness said. Six others identified as Al Jazeera journalists are being tried in absentia.
Three of the Qatar-based television network’s journalists – Peter Greste, an Australian, Mohamed Fahmy, a Canadian-Egyptian national, and Baher Mohamed, an Egyptian – were detained in Cairo on December 29 and remain in custody, Al Jazeera said.
All three deny the charges and Al Jazeera has said the accusations are absurd. Egyptian officials have said the case is not linked to freedom of expression and that the journalists raised suspicions by operating without proper accreditation.
‘Journalists should not have to risk years in an Egyptian prison for doing their job,’ said Joe Stork, deputy Middle East director at Human Rights Watch.
‘The prosecution of these journalists for speaking with Muslim Brotherhood members, coming after the prosecution of protesters and academics, shows how fast the space for dissent in Egypt is evaporating.’
The court postponed the case, in which a total of 20 people are on trial, to March 5.
Read the rest here.
‘The GMBDW reported last month that Egyptian prosecutors had charged 20 al-Jazeera journalists with belonging to the Muslim Brotherhood, fabricating news reports and tarnishing Egypt’s reputation abroad. The GMBDW also reported earlier that Egypt had summoned the Qatari Ambassador to the Egyptian foreign ministry in order to object to Qatari criticism of the crackdown on the Brotherhood as well as to Qatari broadcaster Al-Jazeera’s coverage of events. We also noted at that time that the Washington Post had featured a story which looked at criticism in Egypt of Al Jazeera over its relationship to the Muslim Brotherhood. The GMBDW reported in September 2013 on the ongoing conflicts regarding Al-Jazeera’s coverage of events in Egypt. In July 2012, the GMBDW had reported on the resignation of the 22 members of the Al-Jazeera Egyptian bureau in protest over what they say were instructions from the management to “favor the Muslim Brotherhood.” In 2009, Egyptian authorities were reported to be in the process of revoking Al-Jazeera’s license to broadcast and that the network was planning to close its bureau office in Cairo.
Leaked US State Department cables indicate that Al-Jazeera, based in Qatar and funded by the Qatari government, operates as an arm of Qatari foreign policy which has recently been strongly supportive of the Muslim Brotherhood and the recently deposed Mohamed Morsi. Our predecessor publication extensively covered the role of Qatar as a supporter of the Global Muslim Brotherhood and was the first to report on the strong ties to the Global Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas of Wadah Khanfar, the former Director-General of Al-Jazeera who resigned in 2011 after serving for eight years. In a Featured Story last week, the GMBDW was the first to report that Khanfar is an associate of Robert Malley, the newly appointed Obama administration National Security director for the Mideast.