CAIRO: The court adjourned Tuesday the retrial of two Al-Jazeera English journalists, Mohamed Fahmy and Baher Mohamed, who are facing terrorism-related charges, to May 9.
During today’s hearing, the new expert committee on video footage evidence testified that the seized footage had been unedited, and it was impossible to determine whether it had been aired, and on which channel.
The new committee was assigned in an earlier hearing to replace the original one whose members testified last month they had no recollection of the content of any videos they had previously said were inciting violence.
“TV journalists can film 45 minutes of raw material and just use three minutes for broadcast, so we should be judged for what was actually aired and not the raw material,” Fahmy told The Cairo Post.
A report from the State Information Service was submitted to the court saying that Fahmy was accredited for three months in 2013 during his work for CNN, and that Mohamed had accreditation that had expired at the end of the same year when he was working for a Japanese network.
The judge also received a report from the Journalists’ Syndicate stating that all the defendants in the case were not registered members.
However, Fahmy’s defense attorney Khaled Abu Bakr said that the sydnicate bylaws ban registering foreigners, so Fahmy’s non-enrollment is a moot point “because he carries a foreign nationality.”
At the end of the hearing, Taher Abu el-Nassr, one of the defense team in the case, requested to review the more than 200 page-report of the technical committee, saying “it is important to know what was written in the report.”
Hours before the hearing, Fahmy wrote on his Twitter annount that Tuesday’s trial is “make or break” for them since the committee will discuss its evidences to convict them.
Outside the court, Fahmy and Mohamed said that the hearing was a “victory” for them after the committee’s report showed that the seized raw material were “unedited” after the initial committee’s report accused “us that our video were fabricated and against the national security.”
In an April 22 court session, Egyptian business tycoon Naguib Sawiris testified as a defense witness in support of Canadian journalist Fahmy. Sawiris made distinctions between Al-Jazeera English and its affiliate Al-Jazeera Mubashir Misr (AJMM,) calling the latter’s coverage “inciting.”
The telecommunication mogul added that his “friend” Fahmy cannot belong to the Muslim Brotherhood.
During the last hearing, Fahmy’s struggle to restore his Canadian passport was resolved after he received a temporary one from the Canadian embassy in Egypt.
In Tuesday’s session the judge announced that none of the arrested journalists were members of the Journalists’ Syndicate. Membership in the syndicate is not required for journalists in Egypt to work; many organizations do not offer official contracts to their employees, which is necessary for a journalist to join the syndicate.
Fahmy’s lawyer noted in the court that his clients’ status as a Canadian precluded him from membership in the syndicate, as foreigners may not join.
In this case commonly known in local media as the “Mariott Cell,” both Fahmy and Mohamed, along with half dozen others including students, are accused of spreading “false news that aims to endanger national security and promote the Brotherhood group.”
They were all released pending retrial in February after a 411-day imprisonment over accusations they denied as a “sham.”
Fahmy and Mohamed have frequently talked to the press about an “unprecedented legal limbo” they have been facing since they were arrested in December 2013 along with their Australian colleague Peter Greste, who was deported early February.
The journalists’ initial verdict to be sentenced between seven to 10 years in jail was abolished by Egypt’s high court for “lack of evidence” and they were ordered a retrial.