Tuesday, June 2, 2015
By Alexandra Zakreski The prosecution presented its closing arguments yesterday in the case against journalists Baher Mohamed and Mohamed Fahmy. After some confusion at their April 28 hearing where the presiding judge refused to remove Peter Greste’s name from the defendants list, Greste now faces the ominous prospect of being convicted in absentia. Greste was deported from Egypt in February and returned to Australia under the terms of a presidential decree which allows for the repatriation of foreign prisoners so that they can be dealt with by their home country’s legal system. During yesterday’s hearing, Greste was accused by the prosecutor of bringing large sums of money into Egypt in an effort to further paint the three journalists as criminals. However, as Greste explained in a tweet following the session, it is an entirely normal practice for foreign journalists to “[bring] cash to pay for hotel, phone, taxis and food. Not a cent for another purpose.” In its efforts to convince the judge that the journalists are guilty of fabricating news, the prosecution drew on two specific arguments. They alleged that the journalists had added the sound of gunfire to footage even though this was clearly disproved in testimony from the technical committee. Lawyers then argued that Al Jazeera management told the journalists to film protests in Tahrir Square in a way that would show sexual harassment taking place. It is important to note that the “epidemic” of sexual assaults in Tahrir Square was widely documented by numerous international and local news outlets and human rights organizations, to the extent that the government of President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi made a pledge to tackle the issue of sexual harassment in Egypt. Throughout the closing statement, the prosecution repeatedly focused on the journalists’ portrayal of the removal of former president Mohammed Morsi “as a military coup, [rather than] a people’s revolution,” arguing that “calling it a coup is a lie” despite the fact that the overwhelming majority of international media outlets described it in the same terms. The prosecutor then continued that “journalists should work within the law, respect the state and not damage national security...they went beyond the limits of press freedom.” Fahmy and Mohamed will return to court for the next hearing this Thursday, June 4, at which point the defence will begin their closing arguments; a verdict in the case is expected before the end of June. 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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