#FreeAJStaff: Lawyer for the defense accuses technical experts of perjury

Monday, June 2, 2014

By Alexandra Zakreski

Al Jazeera English journalists Mohamed Fahmy, Peter Greste and Baher Mohamed appeared in a Cairo court for the tenth time yesterday. They have been unjustly detained since December 29, 2013 on baseless charges of fabricating news stories to damage Egypt’s image abroad, membership of the banned Muslim Brotherhood, and operating without a license.

Yesterday’s court appearance marked the start of the defence, as lawyers for the three journalists were given the opportunity to cross-examine the committee of “technical experts” who had previously submitted written testimony that footage found in the journalists’ possession had been altered and falsified. These reports formed the crux of the prosecution’s case against the journalists and it is worth noting that all three reports of the experts’ were completely identical, word for word. This suggests that the experts, recruited from Egypt’s state television network, were instructed to sign a document prepared by the prosecution. It became clear that this was the case when they were cross-examined by Khaled Abou Bakr, a lawyer for Mohamed Fahmy, as their testimony in court explicitly contradicted their written reports.

Contrary to what had been written in their reports, none of the experts on the witness stand were able to say if the journalists’ work had endangered national security, nor were they able to confirm if their equipment had been unlicensed at the time of their arrest. In response to questions on both points, one of the technicians replied, “it’s not for me to say,” and directed the court to his report. This led to uproar in the courtroom, as Bakr accused the witnesses of perjuring themselves and Fahmy shouted, “We have been in prison for six months because the tech committee were forced to sign a statement that our coverage was against national security...The prosecution should be in the cage.”

While the tech committee members maintained that footage had been edited by the journalists with a bias in favour of the Muslim Brotherhood, when they were called upon to recall a specific example, they were unable to list a single incident.

The trial was adjourned to June 5, at which point the lead lawyer for the prosecution will be permitted to sum up the case against them.

Alexandra Zakreski is CJFE's International Programs Assistant.