Egypt court: Lack of evidence led to AJ staff retrial

Court says retrial ordered over several issues, including lack of evidence over alleged links to Muslim Brotherhood.

Peter Greste Photo

Correction (12/2/2015): An earlier version of this article stated that Rena Netjes was an Al Jazeera journalist. This is incorrect. Netjes has never worked for the Al Jazeera Media Network.

An Egyptian court says it ordered the retrial of Al Jazeera’s jailed journalists due a number of issues, including a lack of evidence over their alleged links to the Muslim Brotherhood, state media has reported.

The Court of Cassation ordered a retrial of Peter Greste, Mohamed Fahmy and Baher Mohamed last month, overturning a lower court’s verdict which found them guilty of aiding the Brotherhood.

Greste was deported on February 1 under a presidential decree after the retrial was ordered.

Last week, it was announced the retrial would take place this Thursday.

Giving its reasoning on Monday for overturning the lower court’s ruling, the Court of Cassation said the “criminal court’s verdict lacked evidence to support its ruling” and “was hasty in pronouncing its verdict”.

It said the first case failed to prove how the journalists had joined the Brotherhood, and failed to prove that an act of terrorism actually occurred.

The lower court also “did not wait for medical and legal reports which it had requested after several defendants spoke of being under physical and moral pressure” to make confessions, the appeals court said.

The Court of Cassation said that the initial case did not clarify what illegal broadcasting equipment Fahmy, a producer for Al Jazeera, was accused of carrying when they were arrested. 

Greste release

The three journalists, along with seven of their colleagues outside the country, were accused of spreading “false news” during their coverage of protests after the ousting of President Mohamed Morsi in 2013.

Greste, Fahmy and Mohamed received sentences of between seven and 10 years.

Al Jazeera journalists Alaa Bayoumi, Anas Abdel-Wahab Khalawi Hasan, Khaleel Aly Khaleel Bahnasy, Mohamed Fawzi, Dominic Kane, and Sue Turton were sentenced to 10 years in absentia.

Dutch journalist Rena Netjes, who never worked for Al Jazeera, was handed the same sentence.

In a bid to secure his own release and deportation, Fahmy renounced his Egyptian citizenship and is awaiting a return to Canada, where he also has citizenship.

The journalists have repeatedly said that they were being punished for just doing their jobs.

The judge who sentenced the journalists released his reasoning in July, saying they were brought together “by the devil” to destabilise the country.

Al Jazeera said the campaign to free its journalists in Egypt will not end until Fahmy and Mohamed have been released and the convictions against all of its staff lifted.

Since Morsi’s ousting, a government crackdown against his supporters has left hundreds dead and seen thousands jailed.

Source: News Agencies