On Saturday, an Egyptian judge sentenced three Al Jazeera English journalists—Mohamed Fahmy, Baher Mohamed, and Peter Greste—to at least three years in prison on trumped up charges that have been the subject of much criticism since the men were arrested two years ago in December.
The three men were initially convicted last summer of conspiring with the Muslim Brotherhood to publish false news, but the verdict was overturned on appeal and a retrial ordered. According to the New York Times, the journalists were expecting to be exonerated or sentenced to time already served. Earlier on Saturday, they said they would appeal any sentence.
From the Times:
Egyptian officials have strongly suggested they were eager to be rid of the case, which had become a source of international embarrassment for the government of President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, highlighting its sweeping crackdown on opponents as well as freedom of expression after the military takeover in 2013.
But on Saturday, the judge, Hassan Farid, said that the men, who had all previously worked for other internationally respected news organizations, were not in fact journalists because they lacked the necessary credentials. And he upheld what rights advocates said was among many baseless accusations leveled during their trial: that the journalists had “broadcast false news” about Egypt on Al Jazeera.
Fahmy and Mohamed had been free on bail, the Times reports. They were remanded into custody following Saturday’s hearing. Greste, an Australian citizen, was deported in February; Fahmy, an Egyptian national who holds Canadian citizenship, may still be deported.
The Associated Press reports that Egypt has asked Fahmy to give up his Egyptian nationality in order to qualify for deportation. (No such offer, apparently, has been made to Mohamed, an Egyptian citizen.) Fahmy was represented by human rights lawyer Amal Clooney, who said that she and Canadian Ambassador Troy Lulashnyk would meet with Egyptian officials later on Saturday to push for a presidential pardon.
“The verdict today sends a very dangerous message in Egypt,” Clooney told the AP. “It sends a message that journalists can be locked up for simply doing their job, for telling the truth and reporting the news. And it sends a dangerous message that there are judges in Egypt who will allow their courts to become instruments of political repression and propaganda.”
Fahmy has filed a $100 million lawsuit against Al Jazeera in Canada for neglecting employee safety and using its Arabic-language channels to advocate for the Muslim Brotherhood, the AP reports. The network has said Fahmy should seek compensation from Egypt.