US Congress members: Free Al Jazeera staff

Letter signed by 13 members of US Congress urges Egypt's president to immediately free all imprisoned journalists.

    Several members of the US Congress have in a letter to the Egyptian interim President Adly Mansour called for the release of four Al Jazeera journalists detained for several months in Egypt.

    Virginia Congressman Jim Moran told Al Jazeera on Wednesday that the 13 signees of the letter issued it because doing so "was the right thing".

    "I actually believe in the American values of democracy, freedom of speech, the right to a fair trial - so it was consistent with my values. And what Egypt is doing, and the apathetic response of the United States, is inconsistent with our values," he said.

    Moran added that he wished the US had put more diplomatic pressure on Egypt to free the journalists.

    "I wish the US had put pressure yesterday and today...I think the situation is going to become evermore dire and I think that Egypt is going to become more repressive."

    The letter calls on Mansour’s earlier promise to “spare no effort” in resolving the cases of the four journalists who have been held in Cairo.

    "We urge to release these and all other imprisoned journalists immediately," the letter concludes.

    "Taking this decisive action will help indicate Egypt's commitment to freedom of the press."

    Moran said that the letter was addressed to Mansour, who is the interim president "out of protocol and respect, but I don't think the president has the real authority in the country, but I think it would have been inappropriate to address it to General [Abdel Fattah] Sisi, who clearly has the authority and undoubtedly going to be the next president".

    Hunger strike

    Al Jazeera Arabic's Abdullah Elshamy has been held since August 14 and has been on a hunger strike for 114 days. After a medical exam indicated that Elshamy was in danger of dying, he was moved to an undisclosed location on Monday.

    He has not been officially charged with a crime.

    Three other Al Jazeera journalists, Peter Greste, Baher Mohamed and Mohamed Fahmy have been detained since December 29.

    They are accused of reporting "false news" and aligning with the Muslim Brotherhood, an Islamist group that has been designated a "terrorist group" by the current government.

    Their imprisonment has spurred a global social media campaign calling for their release and for more press freedom in Egypt.

    Al Jazeera strongly denies the accusations made against its staff and has called on the Egyptian authorities to free them immediately.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera


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