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Middle East

Al Jazeera journalists denied bail

On World Press Freedom Day, Egyptian judge rejects bail request and adjourns Al Jazeera staff trial to May 15.

Last updated: 03 May 2014 12:45
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Al Jazeera strongly rejects the allegations against its journalists and continues to call for their release [AP]

Cairo – Jailed Al Jazeera journalist Mohamed Fahmy has addressed a Cairo court, denying accusations of reporting false news designed to undermine the Egyptian state.

"I have great relations with the state security, the military and the intelligence," he told the court on Saturday from outside the caged dock in which defendants are usually held.

Fahmy also reminded the court that Saturday is international World Press Freedom Day, prompting the presiding judge to respond: "Happy World Press Freedom Day."

Fahmy's address came as the court, for a second time, denied a bail request from three Al Jazeera English journalists who have been in prison for more than four months.

Cairo bureau chief Fahmy, along with correspondent Peter Greste and producer Baher Mohamed, stand accused of fabricating reports which "portend the downfall of the state" in order to further the interests of the Muslim Brotherhood, which Egypt has designated a "terrorist organisation".

Al Jazeera strongly rejects the allegations against its journalists and continues to call for their release.

In a report released on Wednesday, the US State Department said Egypt "did not provide any substantiating evidence" to support the terrorist designation.

A further five defendants who joined the journalists in the caged dock on Saturday stand accused of co-operating with Al Jazeera. The journalists have maintained that they had never met the students prior to the first day of the trial.

Twelve other defendants, including several Al Jazeera journalists, are being tried in absentia.

The judge ordered the defence to begin presenting its case at the next session of the trial, slated for May 15. The prosecution's evidence, presented in two April sessions, included a series of unintelligible audio recordings and discarded footage of unrelated news packages apparently found on the crew's hard drives, including an interview about sheep farming.

Shortly after the defendants left the courtroom, dozens of other white-clad prisoners were brought in for separate proceedings, including Al Jazeera Arabic journalist Abdullah Elshamy, who has been held without charge since last August and remains on hunger strike.

Journalists who had been present to cover the previous hearing were ejected from court, but later learned Elshamy's detention had been extended by 45 days.

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Source:
Al Jazeera
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