Egyptian TV station airs video of arrested Al-Jazeera journalists

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 05 February, 2014, 4:47am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 05 February, 2014, 4:47am

A private Egyptian television channel has aired what it called exclusive footage of the arrest and interrogation of two foreign journalists, who are now being held in a high-security prison awaiting trial on terrorism- related charges.

The 22-minute video was broadcast on Sunday night by the satellite channel Al-Tahrir. It appeared to have been taken by police on December 29 as they stormed a pair of upscale hotel rooms that were being used by the Qatar-owned Al-Jazeera English satellite network as temporary offices.

The police were acting on orders to detain the two reporters, Egyptian-Canadian Mohamed Fadel Fahmy and Australian Peter Greste, who stand accused of conspiring with "terrorists" to fabricate news about Egypt.

Al-Jazeera denounced the video in a statement on Monday, describing it as an attempt to demonise its journalists and saying it could prejudice their trial.

Egypt's military-backed government has been waging an increasingly heavy-handed crackdown on dissent nationwide since it came to power through a July 3 coup.

Al-Jazeera's Arabic and English sister channels have landed at the centre of the government's crackdown on media. Both networks have been blasted as mouthpieces for the Muslim Brotherhood.

In a case that has drawn international condemnation, Egypt's public prosecutor last week moved to charge 20 people - including the two journalists arrested in the video - with manipulating clips to assist the "terrorists" in falsely depicting Egypt as a country in the midst of a civil war.

"When was the last time you went to Qatar?" an off-camera interrogator asks Fahmy and Greste in the video.

"So you conduct an interview, and then they send you money?" he says in questioning Fahmy, who responds by explaining calmly how a salary works.

Both men have been detained, along with cameraman Baher Mohamed, for more than a month.

Al-Tahrir, the channel that aired the footage, was founded during Egypt's 2011 uprising as an answer to the state-run networks that had long served the regime of strongman Hosni Mubarak. On Sunday, Al-Tahrir described the video as exclusive footage of the "Marriott cell", suggesting that the journalists were part of a militant organisation.