Thursday, June 4, 2015
By Alexandra Zakreski The retrial of journalists Mohamed Fahmy and Baher Mohamed resumed today in a Cairo court, as defence lawyers began their closing statements in the case. Earlier this week, the prosecution delivered their own closing arguments, during which they aimed to convince Judge Hassan Farid that the reporters had deliberately doctored footage despite evidence to the contrary, among other things. In a bizarre turn of events, the judge confirmed that Peter Greste is being tried in absentia, despite the fact that he was deported to Australia months ago. The judge has argued that since Greste filed an appeal against his original June 2014 conviction prior to his deportation, he is still part of the trial. While a defence lawyer for Greste was present at the hearing in Cairo today, it is unclear what the journalist’s prospects are for acquittal without ever appearing at the retrial. As the defence began their closing statements, it was clear to observers that the court has a misunderstanding of what constitutes the profession of journalism. Attorney Khaled Abu Bakr, a lawyer for Fahmy, once again explained that filming footage of a protest is not evidence of the journalist supporting said protest, but rather reflects the obligation to portray multiple perspectives and report objectively. He continued: “Journalists record history, they don’t bear responsibility for what is said.” Abu Bakr also argued that the journalists would have been foolish to conduct any sort of terrorist activities from the Marriott Hotel, where they were based, and instead would have rented an apartment. Finally, the attorney took efforts to differentiate Fahmy from the students on trial in the same case, since the journalists did not meet them until they were incarcerated. Following this, Fahmy himself addressed the court for the first time in the retrial regarding the fact that he and his colleagues were unknowingly operating in Egypt without valid broadcast licenses. Fahmy reasserted that he was not aware that he and his team lacked the proper licenses, as Al Jazeera management had reportedly told him that it was taken care of. He then referred to his lawsuit against the broadcaster as proof of this, stating, “there is enmity between me and Al Jazeera... I will battle them about this licensing issue because they destroyed my family. I paid the price.” The retrial is adjourned to June 11, at which point the defence attorneys for the others accused in the same case will make their closing statements. CJFE continues to call on the Egyptian government to unconditionally release Mohamed Fahmy and Baher Mohamed, and to drop all charges against the two. We further urge the authorities to cease their persecution of Peter Greste, and to release all prisoners of conscience in the country.
Alexandra Zakreski is CJFE’s International Programs Coordinator.
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