Washington, D.C. – The Tahrir Institute for Middle East Policy (TIMEP) strongly condemns the conviction and sentencing today of several journalists—including Canadian-Egyptian Mohamed Fahmy, Egyptian Baher Mohamed, and Australian Peter Greste—in a case that has raised significant concerns over Egypt’s respect for fundamental human rights and rule of law. The journalists and more than a dozen other defendants in the case, including three foreign journalists tried in absentia, received sentences of between seven and ten years. They will have the opportunity to appeal, but the process could take months.
In a final verdict issued by the court, the Egyptian defendants were found guilty of joining a terrorist group, and the foreign defendants were convicted of aiding and abetting a terrorist organization and publishing false news. Fahmy and Greste received sentences of seven years in prison, while Mohamed received seven years plus an additional three for possession of ammunition—a spent bullet casing he found on the ground during a protest. The terrorism charges stem from allegations that the reporters have ties to the Muslim Brotherhood, which was declared to be a terrorist organization by Egypt following the overthrow of former President Muhammad Morsi last year.
Controversy surrounding the case has stemmed from the presentation of contradictory testimonies and other procedural irregularities, as well as the case’s implications for press freedom in Egypt. At one hearing, Greste remarked that the prosecution’s “inefficiencies [were] just unbelievable.” His comment was in reaction to the introduction of evidence against him that included an Arabic cell phone (Greste neither speaks nor reads Arabic), a recording of a song by singer Gotye, and videos produced by the BBC and Voice of America.
Despite the release from prison of two journalists on medical grounds last week (who, in spite of their release, remain subject to investigation), another fourteen remain imprisoned. Moreover, due process protections are regularly forsaken by the courts, as was amply demonstrated in this case and in other cases, notably those which resulted in mass death sentences for hundreds of individuals over the past few months.
TIMEP calls upon President Abdel-Fattah El Sisi to swiftly pardon Fahmy, Mohamed, and Greste and commute their sentences. TIMEP also renews its call for the government of Egypt to uphold its international and constitutional legal obligations to protect free press and due process rights by allowing journalists to do their jobs freely, without risk of arbitrary arrest and detention.
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The Tahrir Institute for Middle East Policy (TIMEP) is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization dedicated to raising awareness of democratic transitions in the Middle East through analysis, advocacy, and action.