The trial of three Al Jazeera English staff jailed in Egypt on charges of spreading false news and belonging to a “terrorist group” has been adjourned until March 31.
Peter Greste, Mohamed Fahmy, and Baher Mohamed, held in a Cairo for 86 days, appeared in court for the third time on Monday.
The three men are charged with spreading false news and aiding the blacklisted Muslim Brotherhood of deposed President Mohamed Morsi, who was overthrown by the army in July.
Al Jazeera rejects the charges against its staff and continues to call for their release.
The government has declared the Brotherhood a “terrorist” group. An Egyptian court on Monday sentenced 529 members of the Brotherhood to death on charges including murder, in a sharp escalation of a crackdown on the movement.
CNN correspondent Ian Lee, reporting from outside the court in the Egyptian capital, said the families of the jailed journalists were calling on authorities to expedite the trial and to allow the detainees longer time with their lawyers than the current 45-minute session alloted ahead of the trial.
Lee has been reporting on behalf of Al Jazeera as the network’s journalists are banned from reporting from Egypt.
The Al Jazeera staff’s latest court appearance comes days after Egypt’s interim President Adly Mansour pledged to help resolve the trial of Greste, an Australian award-winning journalist.
In the letter directed at Greste’s parents, Mansour, appointed after Morsi’s ouster, said: “Notwithstanding the independence of the judiciary authorities and the fullness of all the rights guaranteed by the law, I would like to assure you in my capacity as president of Egypt that I will spare no effort to work towards the speedy resolution of the case, in a fashion consistent with the law, and that guarantees the resumption of the family in the near future.”
As well as signing the letter as “president”, he also used the title “chief justice”, indicating his position as the head of the Supreme Constitutional Court, the highest judicial authority in the land.
Al Jazeera called the move an “encouraging sign”.
The high-profile case, in which 17 others are also charged, has sparked a global outcry and fuelled fears of a crackdown on the press by the military-installed authorities.
Abdullah al-Shami, from Al Jazeera’s Arabic channel, has been detained for more than six months without charge and has been on hunger strike since January 23. Al Jazeera’s correspondents Sue Turton and Dominic Kane, who covered events in Egypt and are now abroad, are being tried in absentia.
Institutions including the White House, the European Union and the United Nations have called for the release of the men, 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.