Al Jazeera staff face 15 years in Egypt jail

Prosecution demands maximum penalty for three journalists accused of spreading false news and aiding a banned group.

Al Jazeera's journalists have been held in a cage while the court is in session

Egyptian prosecutors have demanded the “maximum” penalty of 15 years’ jail for three Al Jazeera English journalists accused of aiding the Muslim Brotherhood.

The call came on Thursday as prosecutors delivered their closing arguments against Baher Mohamed, Peter Greste and Mohamed Fahmy in the court in Cairo. 

The prosecution told the court that the three journalists had used “selective filming” to unfairly portray a protest in Tahrir Square on June 30, 2013, against Mohamed Morsi, whose presidency was overthrown by the army days later.

None of the accused was in Egypt at the time.

The prosecution also said that Al Jazeera’s report on sexual assaults in Tahrir Square during protests against Morsi was designed to show Egypt in a bad light.

Mohamed, Greste and Fahmy have been imprisoned since December accused of producing false news and providing a platform to the Brotherhood. 

The defence then opened their case. Lawyers said their clients were part of a show trial manufactured to appease public opinion. None of the prosecution witnesses could pinpoint a single video that was a threat to national security, they said.

The session was the 11th since the three were arrested. The prosecution has also charged 16 Egyptians with joining the Brotherhood, which the state designated as a “terrorist group” in January.

If found guilty, Egyptian nationals could get prison terms of 25 years while foreigners face 15 years in jail, the AFP news agency quoted Ibrahim Abdel Wahab, a defence lawyer, as saying.

A fourth Al Jazeera journalist Abdullah Elshamy, who works for the Arabic channel, has been jailed without charge since August, and has been on hunger strike since January.

Elshamy’s family, who visited him in a maximum security prison on Wednesday, said that he had told them he had not eaten any food and that no food had entered his cell at any time.

A hearing to decide whether to release him has been postponed until June 11. Elshamy said he will not break his fast until he is free.

Al Jazeera strongly rejects the charges against its all of its journalists and calls for their immediate release.

Source: Al Jazeera, News Agencies

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