AJ witnesses’ cross-examination concludes in ‘collective amnesia’
Baher Mohamed and Mohamed Fahmy outside the court Thursday- Nourhan Magdi for The Cairo Post

CAIRO: All witnesses cross-examined Thursday at the Al Jazeera journalists’ retrial failed to remember whether any video content constituted “endangering national security,” which is a main charge in the case.

Three members of the technical committee previously assigned to check the videos testified before the judge, prosecution and defense team.

“I do not remember” and “I refer to the report” were common answers between the three witnesses in response to questions about whether the video contents included “violent scenes,” “anti-police and army content” or anything that “endangers Egypt’s security.”

“Can you determine whether the videos were really broadcast on satellite channels?” a question directed to Kamal Mohamed, ERTU Studio Engineer, who answered “No, I cannot exactly determine.”

Ahmed Abdel Hakim, the head of the technical committee, said he did not attend the viewing of some videos and was not there when the committee saw the seized equipments. “You are the head of the assigned committee…how come you sign on final report…while you have not watched the videos?” the judge addressed Abdel Hakim.

“I only signed on what I watched,” Abdel Hakim responded.

A third witness said that it was not “in his specialization” to determine if the videos contained harmful content to state security. The judge replied “but this was written in your report.”

The same witness also said that some video content that he viewed included “fabrications” and sound of unreal fire shots not related to the video.

The lead investigative officer in the case Ahmed Hussein, whose investigations were the basis for the arrest of the journalists, failed to answer whether Fahmy was a member of the Muslim Brotherhood. In his answers, Hussein referred to the original investigations’ document and said that he had used secret sources, which he would not reveal.

When he was asked what three other defendants and a woman called “Noura Hassan el-Banna” have to do with Al-Jazeera case, Hussein also “did not remember” and referred to the investigation report.

In previous statements to The Cairo Post, Baher said that Banna is the wife of his close friend and that her name was “wrongly” added to the case.

“She has nothing to with politics; I have no idea how her name showed up in the case,” Baher added.

Following the hearing, Mohamed Fahmy told journalists “we are facing a trivial situation,” and suggested the witnesses had “collective amnesia” since they were unable to remember anything.

However, he saw today’s hearing as “a good step” and the cross-examination “worked for our favor because the judge himself seems to be baffled.”

Judge Hassan Fareed ordered to form a new technical committee to assume viewing and examining the videos and determine whether they include editing that would affect the message of the footage.

“We are going to go through all these procedures all over again, and I just hope it is expedited this time,” Fahmy said. “Our biggest success is that the technical committee has collapsed.”

For his part, Baher as well saw the Wednesday’s hearing as a “success” in their legal procedure.

About the witness, Baher commented saying “How can somebody say we broadcast materials against national security and then the members now say they did not say that? Who wrote the statements?”

The court postponed the retrial to March 25 and the judge asked the prosecution to submit a statement showing whether the Al-Jazeera channels, including the English, Arabic, and local Mubasher Misr are licensed to work in Egypt.

The license of the channel and the accreditation of its journalists in Egypt has been a long debate that rose in the wake of the case and created a battle of words between the channel and Fahmy who accused the network of “negligence” in protecting their staff and in handling the case.

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