CAIRO: Cairo Criminal Court headed by Judge Mohamed Nagy sentenced Monday Al Jazeera correspondents, including Peter Greste, to seven years in prison over charges of inciting violence, committing “terrorism,” publishing false news on Qatari-owned network Al Jazeera, and aiding the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood.
The 20 defendants, who were tried at Torah Police Institute in Cairo, include four foreigners: Australian Peter Greste, Briton Dominic Kane and Sue Turton, and Dutch Rena Netjes. The last three and eight other Egyptians are being tried in absentia.
The presiding judge also sentenced all those in absentia to ten years in prison; two student defendants, Anas El-Beltagy and Ahmed Abdel-Aziz, were acquitted.
British ambassador James Watt, Australian ambassador Ralph King, and Canadian ambassador David Drake attended the trial.
The first trial was held on Feb. 20 in the presence of foreign representatives and included the General Consulates of the Netherlands, Canada, United Kingdom, United States, and a delegation from the European Union, along with the suspects’ family members.
Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott said he called President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi Monday to discuss Greste’s case; “this would be a PR coup for the new government if Peter Greste is not dealt with severely,” AFP reported Abbott as saying.
In the former session, defendant Mohamed Fahmy, the Egyptian-Canadian Al Jazeera correspondent, said there is no evidence against him, objecting he defense lawyer. Anas El-Beltagy spoke about the Muslim Brotherhood and its history and role in the community but Fahmy interrupted him and said “we are not defending the Brotherhood here.”
In the previous sessions, the presiding judge was examining the videos confiscated from the journalists during their arrest at Marriott Hotel, and the trial was known as the Marriott Trial. In December 2013, security forces arrested six Al Jazeera correspondents and the other defendants were arrested later.