Following the detention and trial in Egypt of colleague Al Jazeera English Journalists: Peter Greste, Baher Mohammed, Mohammed Fahmy and Abdullah Elshamy, Netherlands based Africa Press International (API) and African Celebrities Magazine (ACM) have joined Al Jazeera TV Network; international Journalists and media organizations as well and several world governments in calling for their immediate release. The journalists have been detained in Egypt since 29 December 2013.
It should be noted that following Al Jazeera reports, Egyptian prosecutors have demanded the “maximum” penalty of 15 years’ jail for three of the journalists accused of supporting and aiding a terrorist group and endangering national security.
Peter Greste, Baher Mohammed and Mohammed Fahmy are alleged to have set up a “media center” for the Muslim Brotherhood and to have “manipulated pictures” to give the world the impression that “there is a civil war that threatens to bring down the state.”
Their defense lawyers made strong final arguments on 6th June 2014 in court but yet the Journalists are still in detention. As one of the lawyers rightly put it in the court room; “This is not a trial for these defendants alone – this is a trial of all journalists.”
As stated in court by one of the lawyers, the members of the technical committee who had evaluated the evidence could not recall a single example of what they believed was fabricated coverage from the Al Jazeera team. They also could not pinpoint anything that endangered national security.
It has since been argued by Al Jazeera that the arguments made by the prosecution against the three are very weak and that the Journalists jailed were just doing their jobs. The defense has articulated that the entire trial is a trial of all journalists who believe in honest reporting and integrity, and not just a trial of the Al Jazeera three. According to Al Jazeera spokesperson Osama Saeed, “on the balance of arguments, it’s abundantly clear that Peter, Baher and Mohammed are not guilty of anything, and they should be set free.”
Previous court dates have bizarrely included the prosecution showing footage of Sky News Arabia tourism reports, BBC podcasts, songs by Gotye, photoshopped images of Fahmy, Greste’s family photos, and some of Greste’s award-winning work from East Africa.
The trial has been adjourned until Monday 16 June 2014.
Note that the fourth detained Al Jazeera journalist, Abdullah Elshamy, is held separately. An Egyptian court 2 days ago renewed his detention He has been detained without charge for nearly eleven months. The Al-Jazeera Arabic journalist, who was arrested in Cairo on 14 August 2013, has been on a hunger strike since January 2014.
It is in the spirit of collaboration and camaraderie that Africa Press International and African Celebrities Magazine hereby join in the call for the immediate release of these Journalists.