The principle of free speech was savaged as Egypt's judiciary sentenced three Al-Jazeera journalists with up to a decade in prison on charges of aiding terrorists and endangering national security. The three men were honored in Truthdig's "Truthdigger of the Week" column two weeks ago.
The Guardian reports:
The former BBC correspondent Peter Greste, from Australia, the ex-CNN journalist Mohamed Fahmy, and local producer Baher Mohamed were jailed for seven, seven and 10 years respectively. Four students and activists indicted in the case were sentenced to seven years.
The judge also handed 10-year sentences to the British journalists Sue Turton and Dominic Kane and the Dutch journalist Rena Netjes, who were not in Egypt but were tried in absentia.
The courtroom packed with journalists, diplomats and relatives erupted at the verdict which came despite what independent observers said was a complete lack of evidence.
Fahmy, a Canadian-Egyptian citizen, shouted from the defendants' cage as he was led away, "They'll pay for this." His mother and fiancee both broke down in tears while his brother, who traveled from Kuwait for the verdict, was furious.
"This is not a system," he said. "This is not a country. They've ruined our lives. It shows everything that's wrong with the system: it's corrupt. This country is corrupt through and through."
The Guardian continued:
Diplomats and rights campaigners who have observed the trial expressed incredulity at the verdict. "On the basis of the evidence that we've seen, we can't understand the verdict," said Ralph King, the Australian ambassador in Cairo. "We will make our feelings clear to the Egyptian government and we will continue to provide all possible consular assistance."
Evidence provided by the prosecution included footage from channels and events with nothing to do with Egyptian politics or al-Jazeera. It included videos of trotting horses from Sky News Arabia, a song by the Australian singer Gotye, and a BBC documentary from Somalia.
Mohamed Lotfy, executive director of the Egyptian Commission for Rights and Freedoms who has observed every session of the trial for Amnesty, said the verdict sent a chilling message to all opposition figures in Egypt.
Read more here.
-- Posted by Alexander Reed Kelly.