#FreeAJStaff: Trial verdict to be announced on June 23

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

By Alexandra Zakreski

The trial of Mohamed Fahmy, Peter Greste and Baher Mohamed reconvened for the 12th time yesterday, with Judge Mohamed Nagui announcing that he will deliver his verdict this coming Monday, June 23. If convicted, the prosecution has requested that the three journalists be given the maximum sentence of 15-25 years in prison.

During yesterday’s session, lawyers for the defence countered feeble arguments made by the prosecution throughout the trial, notably the complete and utter lack of meaningful evidence to support charges against the defendants. As CJFE previously noted, such evidence included a video by Australian musician Gotye, footage filmed during Greste’s time in Nairobi, a “clearly doctored” photograph depicting Fahmy with former Egyptian military chief Mohamed Hussein Tantawi, and family photographs of Greste on holiday with his parents.

In response to accusations that the three journalists were trying to dismantle the Egyptian regime, Mohamed Fahmy spoke frankly to the judge, saying “a television channel cannot destroy a country.” The prosecution had previously argued that reporting by Al Jazeera brought down the government in Iraq and that the network was attempting to do the same in Egypt. Referring to specific passages from a book by U.S. President George W. Bush, Fahmy illustrated that Iraq was invaded based on intelligence “misinformation,” rather than television reports.

In more positive news, CJFE celebrates the imminent freedom of Al Jazeera Arabic journalist Abdullah Al Shami, who has been imprisoned without charge since August 2013. Al Shami had been on a hunger strike for almost 150 days when he received news of his release on medical grounds. In the wake of this decision, we express our hope that Fahmy, Greste and Mohamed will be acquitted of all charges and immediately released. Shaaban Saeid, lawyer for Abdullah Al Shami, was optimistic that the judge was prepared to issue a verdict for the Al Jazeera English journalists so soon after hearing the last arguments in the case, saying “it means the judge doesn’t need time to write reasons for a conviction.” However, the outcome is still uncertain considering the intensely political nature of the case and negative local sentiments towards Al Jazeera.

According to Al Jazeera spokesman Osama Saeed, “On June 23, the entire world will be watching Egypt to see whether they uphold the values of press freedom.” CJFE reiterates its demand that the Egyptian government free Mohamed Fahmy, Peter Greste and Baher Mohamed, along with all other journalists and prisoners of conscience imprisoned in the country for exercising their right to free expression.

The trial was adjourned for the last time to June 23, at which point the judge will announce his verdict.


Alexandra Zakreski is CJFE’s International Programs Assistant.