Thursday, March 19, 2015
By Alexandra Zakreski Mohamed Fahmy described today’s session in an Egyptian court as a “rebirth” as there was progress in his retrial for the first time since it began on February 12. Following the hearing, the trial was adjourned to March 25, perhaps indicating that the court is finally willing to make good on its promises to expedite the case against Fahmy and his Egyptian colleague Baher Mohamed. The persistently absent witnesses who had caused the repeated delay in proceedings finally appeared and were cross-examined by defence lawyers. The original written analysis submitted by the three technical “experts,” all employees of Egyptian state television, stated that video footage produced by Fahmy, Mohamed and their colleague Peter Greste had been deliberately edited and falsified to give the impression that Egypt was “in a state of civil war.” The testimony played a significant role in the original conviction of the journalists. Yet today, it appeared that the witnesses were suffering from “collective amnesia.” The experts repeatedly failed to definitively answer any of the questions put to them, dramatically undermining their own testimony and revealing the farcical nature of the charges against the journalists. Not only were the witnesses unable to say whether the video footage in question was edited to harm national security, they also admitted that they were not even qualified to judge whether that was the case. There was a familiar refrain of “I don’t remember” in each witness testimony, and one technician could not even confirm having seen the video footage in the first place. When confronted with their written affidavits to the contrary, the witnesses stated, “I didn’t write that.” These admissions appear to confirm that the initial expert testimony against Fahmy, Greste and Mohamed was fabricated, likely by the prosecution. While one of the witnesses argued that the sound of gunfire had been falsely added to a segment, the journalists vehemently denied this, saying that the gunfire was present at the scene while they were filming. When questioned about the charge that Fahmy and Mohamed are members of the banned Muslim Brotherhood, the lead investigator in the case floundered, unable to explain what characteristics were used to determine if the journalists were members of the group. The judge adjourned the hearing after ordering that a new technical committee be formed to examine the video footage and comment on its veracity and production. The judge also requested that Al Jazeera present proof that the journalists were accredited and using a valid transmission license at the time of their arrest. Speaking to journalists after the session, Fahmy was hopeful that today’s progress would carry through the remainder of the retrial, as he said that the judge presiding over the case appears to be more responsive to the defendants and understanding of their situation. While CJFE shares these hopes and urges the Egyptian government to expedite the trial, there is substantial concern that the journalists will not be acquitted, despite the lack of evidence against them and illegitimacy of the charges. CJFE therefore urges the Egyptian government to drop all charges against Mohamed Fahmy and Baher Mohamed, and to release both journalists permanently and unconditionally.
Alexandra Zakreski is CJFE’s International Programs Coordinator.
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