Behind Journos' 7-Year Sentence: Vacation Photos?

Trio of al-Jazeera reporters convicted, sentenced today
By Matt Cantor,  Newser Staff
Posted Jun 23, 2014 7:54 AM CDT
Behind Journos' 7-Year Sentence: Vacation Photos?
Al-Jazeera journalist Peter Greste looks out from the defendant's cage during a sentencing hearing in a courtroom in Cairo, Egypt, Monday, June 23, 2014.   (AP Photo/Ahmed Abd El Latif, El Shorouk Newspaper)

Egypt today sentenced three al-Jazeera journalists to at least 7 years in prison on charges of supporting the Muslim Brotherhood, which the country has deemed a terrorist organization—in a case that saw the prosecution provide scant and largely unrelated evidence. The men were also charged with creating false footage suggesting the country was facing a civil war, the AP reports. Australian Peter Greste, Canadian-Egyptian Mohammed Fahmy, and Egyptian Baher Mohammed had been reporting on protesters backing ousted president Mohamed Morsi and were detained in a December raid on their Cairo hotel room. The trio has been housed in a 13-foot cell for 23 hours a day since, the BBC reports.

The prosecution's case was thin: It showed video obtained from the journalists covering a veterinary hospital and Christian life, photos from Greste's family vacation, a news report made while the trio wasn't in the country, and a pop video by the Australian singer Gotye, notes al-Jazeera. (As the New York Times reports, "There was no publicly available evidence that the journalists had either supported the Brotherhood or broadcast anything inaccurate.") "We are deeply concerned that this verdict is part of a broader attempt to muzzle media freedoms," says Australia's foreign minister. The country's prime minister has voiced his concerns to Egyptian president Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi. Mohammed was sentenced to an additional three years for possessing ammunition—a charge al-Jazeera says resulted from a single leftover shell he'd been keeping as a souvenir. There were 17 other co-defendants, including other al-Jazeera journos and students accused of giving footage to the journalists; 11 tried in absentia received 10-year sentences. (More al-Jazeera stories.)

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