Egypt puts three Al Jazeera journalists on trial

PUBLISHED : Friday, 21 February, 2014, 1:29am
UPDATED : Friday, 21 February, 2014, 1:29am

Egypt put three Al Jazeera journalists on trial yesterday on charges of aiding members of a "terrorist organisation", in a case that human rights groups say shows the authorities are trampling on freedom of expression.

The journalists, wearing white prison outfits, appeared in metal cages. Six others identified as Al Jazeera journalists are being tried in absentia.

Three of the Qatar-based television network's journalists - Peter Greste, an Australian, Mohamed Fahmy, a Canadian-Egyptian national, and Baher Mohamed, an Egyptian - were detained in Cairo on December 29 and remain in custody, Al Jazeera said.

All three deny the charges and Al Jazeera has said the accusations are absurd. Egyptian officials have said the case is not linked to freedom of expression and that the journalists raised suspicions by operating without proper accreditation.

"Journalists should not have to risk years in an Egyptian prison for doing their job," said Joe Stork, deputy Middle East director at Human Rights Watch.

The court postponed the case, in which a total of 20 people are on trial, to March 5.

"We believe we will be acquitted. The lawyers are fully on board with us, they fully believe in our case, they fully believe that we were just operating as journalists," said Heather Alan, the head of news gathering at Al Jazeera English.