Retrial of Al Jazeera staff again adjourned in Egypt

Trial adjourned as rights group reports that journalists face “unprecedented” threats under Egypt’s President Sisi.

Fahmy and Mohamed
Thursday's hearing will be the eighth in the retrial in Egypt of Baher Mohamed (R) and Mohamed Fahmy (L) [AP]

The much-delayed retrial of two Al Jazeera journalists has again been adjourned in Cairo, as the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) released a report saying that journalists face unprecedented threats in President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi’s Egypt.

Thursday’s hearing in the retrial of Beher Mohamed and Mohamed Farmy was adjourned until Monday June 29.

The previous eight sessions in the Cairo court that include Thursday’s, have all been adjourned.

The journalists are charged with aiding a terrorist organisation, a reference to the Muslim Brotherhood, which was outlawed in Egypt after the army overthrew President Mohamed Morsi amid mass protests against his rule in 2013.

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The journalists and Al Jazeera have vigorously denied the accusations, saying they were just doing their jobs.

The journalists’ imprisonment reinforced the view of human rights groups that the government was rolling back freedoms gained after the 2011 uprising that toppled Hosni Mubarak.

The New York-based CPJ released a report on Thursday detailing the incarceration of 18 Egyptian journalists, most of whom were accused of affiliation with the Muslim Brotherhood.

It said the threat of imprisonment in Egypt is part of a stifling atmosphere in which authorities pressure media outlets to censor critical voices and issue gag orders on sensitive topics. It said Sisi has invoked national security to trample on liberties.

“CPJ spoke to high-level officials, including the prosecutor-general and the minister of transitional justice, who denied that Egypt was holding any journalists in jail in relation to their work,” the group said in the report, which was based on a June 1 census of Egyptian prisons.

“But CPJ research shows that the government of [Sisi] … has used the pretext of national security to crack down on human rights, including press freedom.”

Al Jazeera’s Fahmy, a naturalised Canadian who has given up his Egyptian citizenship, and Egyptian Baher Mohamed were released on bail in February after spending more than a year in custody.

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A third Al Jazeera journalist, Australian Peter Greste, was deported in February. He continues to face charges in absentia.

The journalists were originally sentenced to between seven and 10 years in prison. Egypt’s high court ordered the retrial in January.

Thursday’s retrial also comes just days after Al Jazeera Arabic journalist Ahmed Mansour, was detained at Berlin airport at the request of the Egyptian government.

He was later released by German authorities after spending three days in jail.

Source: Al Jazeera, News Agencies