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March 05, 2014

Egypt to Resume Trial of Al-Jazeera Journalists

by VOA News

An Egyptian court is set to resume the trial of 20 journalists charged with spreading "false information" about Egypt and supporting or belonging to the Muslim Brotherhood.

The trial is continuing Wednesday after being adjourned following an opening session last month.

Three of the journalists are from the Qatar-based al-Jazeera television network, which has rejected the charges against them. Qatar's rulers support the Muslim Brotherhood and ousted president Mohamed Morsi.

Egyptian authorities have criticized al-Jazeera for what they claim is coverage that is biased in favor of the Brotherhood, which the government has labeled a terrorist group. The channel's executives have defended their coverage, calling the charges against their personnel "absurd, baseless and false."

The case has drawn international attention, especially from human rights and press freedom groups.

The Committee to Protect Journalists said Tuesday that Egypt can improve its "deteriorating record of press freedom" by stopping the prosecution of journalists, and urged authorities to release all those in jail.

Reporters Without Borders said the interim government has persecuted journalists since Morsi was pushed from power in July, and urged leaders to comply with the rights of free expression and press freedom in Egypt's new constitution.

Three of the journalists were arrested in December at a Cairo hotel where they were working after Egyptian authorities closed al-Jazeera's bureau there. The three included Australian Peter Greste and Egyptian-Canadian national Mohamed Fadel Fahmy.

Authorities said they were working without accreditation, and accused them of editing video "to give the appearance that Egypt is in a civil war." Other charges against them include belonging to and possessing materials that supported a terrorist organization.