In a new wave of controversy, an Egyptian court sentenced three journalists — a Canadian national, an Australian and an Egyptian–to three years in prison on charges of broadcasting false news and operating without a license. The al Jazeera reporters – represented by Amal Clooney — were the most recent victims of the government’s clampdown on the press.
Al Jazeera condemned the decision. “Today’s verdict defies logic and common sense,” Al Jazeera Media Network’s Acting Director General Dr. Mostefa Souag said. Network officials said they would appeal the verdict in the Court of Cassation, Egypt’s highest court.
The decision closes a case that has been seen as politically motivated and which has brought international condemnation on the government of Egyptian President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi, even as he sought to project an image of democratic reform in the wake of the 2013 military coup that brought him to power.
Families and supporters of the journalists derided Saturday’s decision. “There was no due process at all,” said Mr. Fahmy’s brother, Adel Fahmy. “This was a joke of a trial.”
Amal Clooney, a prominent international human rights attorney representing Mr. Fahmy, said she and the Canadian Ambassador will meet Egyptian authorities to urge them to deport her client. “This verdict is very, very disappointing,” she said. “It sets a dangerous precedent for press freedom in Egypt.”
Ms. Clooney cited previous statements by Mr. Sisi in which he indicated he would prefer to see the journalists deported rather than tried in court. “This is the time to do just that,” she said.