NewsNorth AfricaEgypt: Court decision 'a political case'


Posted on Monday, 20 June 2016 15:53

Egypt: Court decision 'a political case'

By Nicholas Norbrook

Egyptian judge, Mohammed Shirin Fahmy, second right, reads the verdict against former Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi, in a makeshift courtroom at the national police academy, in an eastern suburb of Cairo, Egypt, Saturday, June 18, 2016. Photo©Amr NabilA judicial decision delivered over the weekend has worsened Egypt's relationship with Qatar and hurt the country's reputation for press freedom.

The final verdict in a high-profile trial of 11 people for espionage was finally handed down by a Cairo court on 18 June, with six people sentenced to death. It confirms the death sentence for six of the defendents, including two staff members of Qatar-based broadcaster Al Jazeera.

these are, regrettably, Egyptians who betrayed the trust

Egypt's former president Mohamed Morsi was sentenced to life imprisonment, along with aides Ahmed Abdel Aaty and Amin al-Serafy.

Egypt and Qatar's foreign ministries exchanged terse statements on Sunday over the sentence, with Qatar questioning the integrity of Egyptian judges. Morsi received the backing of gas-rich Gulf state Qatar during his short tenure as president from 2012 to 2013.

Three of those sentenced to death – the Al Jazeera staff and another journalist – were tried in absentia. The other three, who remain in a Cairo prison, are political activist Ahmed Afifi, flight attendant Mohamed Kilani and academic Ahmed Ismail.

"They are more dangerous than spies, because spies are usually foreigners, but these are, regrettably, Egyptians who betrayed the trust", said judge Mohammed Shirin Fahmy. "No ideology can ever justify the betrayal of one's country."

But defendant Ibrahim Helal, former director of news at Al Jazeera's Arabic channel, who was accused of selling state secrets, argued that "this is a political case [...] They want to threaten all journalists inside and outside of Egypt."

Last December international press freedom watchdog Reporters Without Borders said Egypt was second only to China in jailing journalists in 2015.

President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi is a former soldier and wwas one of the few army generals that had been allowed to retain his position by the Muslim Brotherhood.

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