#FreeAJStaff: Defence continues closing arguments, adjourned to June 25

Thursday, June 11, 2015
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Thursday, June 11, 2015
By Alexandra Zakreski The retrial of journalists Mohamed Fahmy, Peter Greste (in absentia) and Baher Mohamed continued today with further closing statements from defence lawyers. Final arguments from the defence will continue at the next trial date, June 25. Today’s hearing illuminated more details of the fateful day that Fahmy, Greste and Mohamed were first arrested on December 29, 2013. While Fahmy and Greste were arrested at their suite in the Marriott Hotel, Mohamed was seized from his Cairo home, where officers allegedly broke down the door of his apartment, with his pregnant wife and children sleeping within, before shooting his dog. Today’s closing statements from the defence attorneys largely focused on further emphasizing the main inconsistencies in the prosecution’s case that have been discussed since the retrial began on February 12—mainly that the technical committee confirmed that none of the journalists’ footage had been falsified and that the prosecution had failed to produce any evidence of a link between the three reporters and the banned Muslim Brotherhood. One of Fahmy’s lawyers, Mohamed Wahba, also argued that the initial search and arrest warrants tendered when the trio were first arrested at the Marriott Hotel should actually be considered null and void, since they were littered with legal issues. Following his court appearance, Fahmy was fairly positive regarding the upcoming verdict in his case, saying, “I feel we will be exonerated and we’re very hopeful.” While the case against Fahmy, Greste and Mohamed is reaching a resolution, the conditions for press freedom and freedom of opinion in Egypt have continued to deteriorate. Just last week, on June 2, two journalists were sentenced to prison terms. The February conviction of Youssef Shaaban, editor of news website Al Bedaiah, was upheld and the journalist sentenced to 15 months in prison on charges of assaulting police officers stemming from his coverage of a March 2013 protest. In an unrelated case, television host Islam Behery, of the private station Alkahera Walnas, was sentenced in absentia to five years in prison on charges of blasphemy after he discussed contentious religious issues on his program. It’s not only journalists who continue to be targeted in the Egyptian government’s war against critical voices, but civil society groups as well; a local Egyptian IFEX member organization, the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies, is facing judicial harassment under the country’s strict NGO law after the organization’s director addressed the Human Rights Committee of the European Parliament on May 28, 2015. CJFE continues to urge the Egyptian government to drop all charges against Mohamed Fahmy, Peter Greste and Baher Mohamed, as well as the student activists in their case. We further call on authorities to release all other prisoners of conscience in the country and to cease their harassment of civil society.
Alexandra Zakreski is CJFE’s International Programs Coordinator.

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