#FreeAJstaff: Trial of Al Jazeera journalists adjourned to March 31

Monday, March 24, 2014
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By Alexandra Zakreski Earlier today the trial of Canadian-Egyptian Mohamed Fahmy, Australian Peter Greste and Egyptian Baher Mohamed resumed in Cairo, where the Al Jazeera journalists have been detained since December 29, 2013. Their Al Jazeera Arabic colleague, Abdullah Alshamy, has been imprisoned without charge since the summer of 2013 and has been on a hunger strike for over two months in protest of his treatment. Today’s court date came on the heels of some positive developments for the imprisoned journalists. Last week, the family of Peter Greste received assurances from interim Egyptian President Adly Mansour that he will “spare no effort to work towards the speedy resolution of the case, in a fashion consistent with the law, and that guarantees the resumption of the family in the near future.” This weekend Mohamed Fahmy also received some good news, as he was finally able to receive some medical treatment for a shoulder injury he suffered prior to his arrest, for which he had previously been unable to receive any treatment. Under heavy armed guard, he was transported to a public hospital to undergo an MRI where he was greeted by family members including his mother, fiancée, and brother. Unfortunately, Fahmy’s previously dislocated shoulder was so exacerbated by his time in detention and his treatment during his arrest, and a lack of medical care, that the prison physician has informed Fahmy that he will need surgery to repair the injury. Fahmy’s family also received a letter and a phone call from the office of the interim president, which they described as a positive development. They have said there was a show of “sympathy and empathy,” and Mansour pledged to have the Ministry of the Interior investigate medical treatment for Fahmy. In the letter, President Mansour affirmed his “confidence that [Fahmy] will get all his legal rights” and assured the family that he will “[exert] every effort necessary and possible to reach a fast resolution to this case, that guarantees justice in line with the law.” While Greste’s family received encouraging words of an impending reunion, such assurances were absent for Fahmy. Fahmy has requested his trial be expedited, with less time between court dates. He has also asked to be allowed more time to prepare with his lawyer before each court date, as the current arrangement only allows for a 45 minute meeting with his lawyer the day before he is due to appear in court. Today’s proceedings saw a defence lawyer cross-examine a witness on his analysis of tapes shot by Al Jazeera English, questioning claims that the footage was biased or doctored to “give the impression to the outside world that there is a civil war that threatens to bring down the state.” For the first time since the detainees began their court appearances, Peter Greste was provided with an English interpreter. The judge adjourned the trial for another week, with the case due to reconvene on March 31, 2014. Bail was, once again, denied.

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For more information about the trial of Al Jazeera staff, see our infographic—Over 80 days imprisoned: Time to #FreeAJStaff Please sign and share our petition to free the jailed Al Jazeera journalists.
Alexandra Zakreski is CJFE’s International Programs Assistant.

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