CAIRO: The Prosecution accused two Al-Jazeera journalists of belonging to the Muslim Brotherhood group and publishing false news Monday during its closing argument.
The charges were previously handed to the journalists along with other students in the case, known in the local media as the “Marriott Cell.”
During the hearing, the prosecution requested to submit a CD of the press conference held recently by one of the journalists, Mohamed Fahmy, as evidence, but the judge turned it down.
Fahmy and Baher Mohamed rejected “allegations” drawn against them Monday, where they both said they are preparing for their defense.
In January, the journalists’ June sentence of 7-10 years in prison was overturned, and a retrial was ordered. Their next hearing is scheduled for June 4, where the defense will present the closing argument.
Fahmy, Mohamed and as their deported Australian colleague Peter Greste were accused Monday of “breaking the law” for operating without a valid license and without accreditation.
Fahmy defended himself and his colleague saying that “we were kept in dark regarding the license” and that they were “shocked” to hear the prosecution in a past hearing saying that all Al-Jazeera channels are not allowed to operate in Egypt.
“The network should take responsibility for the license issue,” Fahmy said. He added that they might face 1-3 years in prison if the license charge was upheld against them.
He also said this is one of the issues they will bring to the defense to “separate between their and the network’s responsibilities.”
Despite a committee assigned by the court to review the journos’ seized footage said they “were not edited,” the prosecutor accused them of “contriving” video content about events in Egypt.
He mentioned “false sound effects” as one of the pieces of evidence of fabrication that “would be falsely used” in any report.
The prosecution quoted statements made by Greste during interrogations that the Doha headquarter sometimes puts some inserts and photos in the reports.
“In every channel in the world, there are insertions from stock footages…it does not mean Doha is altering or fabricating [news,] it happens with every single channel… that is a very important issue that the prosecutor is ignorant of,” Fahmy commented to the journalists outside the court.
The prosecutor assured that even if the video footage were not aired, they are “still evidence” against the journalists.
Disrupting national security
In its pleading, the prosecution said some of the hosts who in the videos used the phrase “military coup,” referring to the 2013 ouster of President Mohamed Morsi, as well as people holding banners against the police and the army “to disrupt the national security of the country.”
The prosecutor said the videos included press releases by the Brotherhood, and one of the videos included statements by the group leader Essam Sultan saying “the economy is collapsing in Egypt.” The Egyptian authorities have accused the Brotherhood and Al-Jazeera of spreading a false impression that the country was falling apart after Morsi’s ouster.
Fahmy said “many networks use the word coup…I do not see them being accused of destroying national security […] But again that’s not a reason for putting people in prison.”
His lawyer, Khaled Abu Bakr also gave statements to journalists after the hearing, saying that journalists’ job is “to report the incident not to include their opinions.”
For Mohamed’s part, he said “today, the prosecution accused me and Fahmy of being professional journalists, and doing our job.”