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Al-Jazeera Journalists Await Appeal After Year in Egyptian Jail


FILE - Al-Jazeera English producer Baher Mohamed, left, Canadian-Egyptian acting Cairo bureau chief Mohammed Fahmy, center, and correspondent Peter Greste, right, appear in court during their trial on terror charges, in Cairo, Egypt.

Three Al-Jazeera journalists are marking one year since they were arrested in Egypt on charges of supporting the banned Muslim Brotherhood, as they look toward a court date Thursday to appeal their case.

Australian Peter Greste and Egyptian-Canadian Mohamed Fahmy are in prison on seven-year sentences, while their Egyptian colleague Baher Mohamed is serving a 10-year sentence.

Journalists jailed, worldwide, 2000-2014
Journalists jailed, worldwide, 2000-2014

Greste's brother Michael told reporters Monday that the family has to be hopeful the court appeal will lead to the journalists' release.

"The first of January marks the next milestone in the judicial process and we see this as the next available opportunity for the Egyptian authorities to correct the injustice that's occurred. It is important that we continue to maintain the spotlight on the judicial process and ensure that it continues to be scrutinized," Greste said.

"As we count down the days to January 1, the only decision that we expect the appeals court to find, and hope for, is that it will indicate its independence and confirm its integrity by overturning the previous sentence," he said.

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi said after the journalists were convicted in July that the decision must be respected and he would not interfere.

Marwa Omara said her fiance, Mohamed Fahmy, is behind bars because of what she called a "cold war" between Egypt and Al-Jazeera's financial backer, Qatar.

"It's very obvious to everyone that it's a political case. Mohamed is a pawn in a cold war between Egypt and Qatar, and he didn't do anything, he didn't commit any crime, there is no evidence against him and he is paying the price for doing nothing," said Omara.

Al-Jazeera has insisted its workers were simply doing their jobs reporting the news, and the news agency called the verdict against them "shocking."

International condemnation

The case and the government's reaction have brought international condemnation from leaders, journalists, press freedom groups and social media users.

Jane Worthington, acting director at the Asia-Pacific office for the International Federation of Journalists, said Monday that "journalists are under attack" and that the efforts to free the group from Al-Jazeera will continue as long as necessary.

"The campaign has not lost its energy. People are not going to give up about Peter and will keep going until justice is delivered and he is allowed to go," Worthington said.

Greste wrote a letter to his supporters last week, saying the case has brought global awareness to "the far wider and more vital issues of press freedom, the persecution of journalists, and of justice in Egypt."

He said the attention has sent a clear message to politicians that "a free press is an indivisible part of a free society."

Paris-based Reporters Without Borders also reiterated last week its call for Egypt to release the journalists.

Program Director Lucie Morillon said, "Their arbitrary conviction perfectly illustrates how the regime has been cracking down on foreign and local media personnel with real or imagined links to the Muslim Brotherhood."

The group said Egyptian authorities arbitrarily arrested 30 journalists this year, and that at least 20 of them remain in custody.

Former president ousted

The Egyptian government carried a violent crackdown against the Brotherhood after Sissi, then the defense minister, ousted former President Mohamed Morsi in 2013.

The campaign also included authorities arresting many of the Brotherhood leaders, including Morsi, who is in jail awaiting multiple trials.

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