Egypt Court Sentences Al Jazeera Reporters to 3 Years in Prison

An Egyptian court sentenced three journalists for Qatar-based television station Al Jazeera to three years in prison on Saturday after a retrial, drawing condemnation from the channel and Amnesty International.

Mohammed Fahmy, a Canadian who dropped his Egyptian citizenship, Australian Peter Greste and Egyptian Baher Mohammed were convicted by the Cairo criminal court for “inciting against the country” and broadcasting false news, Egypt’s state news agency MENA reported on Saturday.

Greste, deported to Australia in February, was sentenced in absentia while Mohammed received an additional sentence of six months for possessing a bullet.

Mostefa Souag, Al Jazeera Media Network’s acting director general, said in a statement that the verdict “defies logic and common sense.” There is no evidence the journalists fabricated news or aided terrorists, he said.

“Shocked. Outraged. Angry. Upset,” Greste said in a post on Twitter. “None of them convey how I feel right now.”

Judge Hassan Fareed said that the defendants weren’t journalists and fabricated reports with the intent to harm the country, MENA reported. He also said that Al Jazeera was not licensed to operate in Egypt, according to the news agency.

In a previous trial, the journalists received sentences of seven to 10 years in prison. An appeals court ordered their retrial in January.

The arrests in 2013 came amid a broader dispute between Egypt and Qatar. Qatar supported the government of former president Mohamed Mursi, the Muslim Brotherhood-backed politician ousted in 2013, and denounced his overthrow.

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

Amnesty International called the sentences “an affront to justice that sound the death knell for freedom of expression in Egypt,” according to an e-mailed statement Saturday by the group.

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