Trial of Al Jazeera staff adjourned in Egypt

Network continues to call for release of journalists accused of spreading false news and belonging to "terrorist group".

    The trial of three Al Jazeera English journalists in Egypt has been adjourned until March 24 and the defendants remain in jail on charges of spreading false news and belonging to a "terrorist group".

    Peter Greste, Mohamed Fahmy, and Baher Mohamed, who have been held for more than two months, appeared in court for the second time on Wednesday when witnesses for the prosecution were heard.

    Al Jazeera rejects the charges against its staff and continues to call for their release.

    "Mohamed, Peter, and Baher are world-class journalists, and were simply doing the job – of journalism – covering and challenging all sides of the story in Egypt," Al Anstey, managing director of Al Jazeera English, said.

    "To continue to keep them behind bars after such a long time in detention is simply outrageous, so we continue to call for their immediate release."

    Correspondent Greste, an award-winning journalist, Egypt bureau chief Fahmy and producer Mohamed have been detained since they were taken from their hotel in Cairo on December 29.

    Abdullah al-Shami, from Al Jazeera's Arabic channel, has been detained for more than six months without charge and has been on a hunger strike since January 23.

    The network is currently not allowed to report from Egypt.

    A producer from the broadcaster CNN was inside the makeshift courtroom in Torah prison where the trial is taking place and said the three defendants had appeared in the dock, initially wearing handcuffs, but were uncuffed after Fahmy, who is suffering from a shoulder injury, requested it.

    Fahmy told the court his right shoulder "has been broken for 10 weeks and I sleep on the floor" in a cell.

    "I ask you to free me on the guarantee from the Canadian embassy that I will not leave the country," he said, according to an AFP report from the trial.

    Journalists at 40 locations across the globe staged vigils in solidarity with the jailed Al Jazeera staff on February 27 in a global day of action, highlighting the need for press freedom.

    All Al Jazeera staff gathered in the newsroom of its Doha headquarters for a silent protest, and Greste was elected chairman of the Foreign Correspondents Association of East Africa in absentia.

    Institutions including the White House, the European Union and the United Nations have called for the release of the journalists, and for press freedoms to be upheld.

    Freedom of speech in Egypt has been the focus of mounting global concern since the government adopted a hardline approach towards journalists. The country has been ranked the third deadliest destination for journalists in 2013 by the Committee to Protect Journalists.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera


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