Egypt court acquits Al Jazeera cameraman

Mohamed Badr cleared of charges, along with 61 other defendants, meaning he could be freed in coming days.

Mohamed Badr's acquittal comes days after the UN condemned a clampdown on the media in Egypt [AP]

An Al Jazeera cameraman who has been in detention in Egypt has been acquitted along with 61 other defendants, the channel’s lawyer has said.

The lawyer said on Sunday that Mohamed Badr was not held on any other charges and should be released, although that must be ordered by the court.

Badr had been held since July accused of involvement in rioting in Ramses Square, Cairo, during protests against the army’s removal of the former president, Mohamed Morsi, from power.

Al Jazeera repeatedly denied the accusations and called for his release since he was arrested.

His acquittal comes days after the United Nations expressed concern about the “increasingly severe clampdown and physical attacks” on journalists in Egypt.

In a statement released on Friday, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights said the clampdown on the media by Egyptian authorities was hampering the ability of journalists to operate freely. 

“In recent months, there have been numerous reports of harassment, detention and prosecution of national and international journalists as well as violent attacks, including several that led to injuries to reporters trying to cover last weekend’s third anniversary of the Egyptian revolution,” said Rupert Colville, the commissioner’s spokesman. 

Prisoners’ rights

The UNHCR said it was concerned about the Egyptian Prosecutor-General’s intention to bring to trial 16 local and three foreign journalists working for Al Jazeera, on charges including “aiding a terrorist group” and “harming the national interest” 

Correspondent Peter Greste and producers Mohamed Fahmy and Baher Mohamed have been held in custody for more than a month without charge. Another Al Jazeera staff member, Abdullah al-Shami, has been in custody since August.

Human rights groups say conditions for journalists in Egypt have become difficult since former Morsi was removed by the army on July 3, 2013. 

The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) said that Egypt, Syria and Iraq had become some of the deadliest countries for journalists to work in. 

Writing from his prison cell south of Cairo, Greste said the authorities routinely violate legally enshrined prisoners’ rights, denying visits from lawyers, keeping cells locked for 20 hours a day. 

“But even that is relatively benign compared to the conditions my colleagues are being held in,” he wrote.

Source: Al Jazeera, News Agencies