An Egyptian court has denied bail to three Al Jazeera journalists, and extended the imprisonment of a fourth for 45 days in hearings that coincided with World Press Freedom Day.
The judge on Saturday adjourned the case of Mohamed Fahmy, Peter Greste and Baher Mohamed until May 15, after hearing Fahmy repeat his request for bail. The first bail request was rejected on March 31.
The judge also listened to Fahmy explaining that his job as a journalist involved keeping contact with the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood as well as with the country’s intelligence, police forces and government.
Al Jazeera has been denied access to attend the session, but updates of the proceedings were being posted on the messaging service, Twitter, by a group of international journalists.
The three journalists, who work for Al Jazeera English, shouted “Happy Press Freedom Day” as they were taken out of the court room, international journalists reported.
They face charges of spreading false news and aligning with the Muslim Brotherhood, an Islamist group that has been designated a “terrorist group” by the current government.
In a second case, Abdullah Elshamy, a journalist for Al Jazeera Arabic, was told he would spend another 45 days in prison. He has been in prison for more than 262 days, has never been charged with a crime, and has been on hunger strike for more than a 100 days in protest.
Talking to reporters at his hearing who were later kicked out, Elshamy said he lived in a 12 metre sq cell with ith 15 other. Water is cut for up to 12 hours a day. He also said that he lost 35kg since his hunger strike started in January, has had no medical care, and has not met a lawyer since his imprisonment in August.
Concerns over press freedom and judicial procedures in Egypt have mounted as observers of the trial say the court has been unable to prove any wrongdoing.
In an interview before the latest hearing, Egypt’s foreign minister, Nabil Fahmy, defended the case against Greste, Mohamed and Fahmy and cited two letters sent by the interim president, Adly Mansour, to the families of two of the journalists.
“You haven’t done this, even in your system, he told the US television host, Charlie Rose. “Our president sent letters to the families of two of the accused … because he wanted to assure them that there would be due process,” Fahmy said in the interview.
Al Jazeera rejects all charges and accusations against its staff. The network urges Egypt’s government to take the opportunity of World Press Freedom Day to immediately release its journalists.