Three journalists from the Al-Jazeera English broadcaster have been pictured on Wednesday caged in a courtroom in Cairo’s Tora prison. Canadian-Egyptian Cairo bureau chief Mohamed Fahmy, producer Baher Mohamed and correspondent Peter Greste – formerly of the BBC – have been charged with spreading false news and supporting the Muslim Brotherhood, which the authorities have designated a terrorist organisation.
©The Huffington Post
All three deny the charges. On their arrival in court, Mohamed shouted out “journalists are not terrorists”.
The trio were arrested in a hotel in the Egyptian capital in late December and have been in custody ever since. Another Al-Jazeera journalist, Abdullah al-Sham, who works for the Arabic channel, is also in custody and has so far not been charged. In total, 20 people are on trial, however Al-Jazeera says only nine of the defendants are among its employees.
During the hearing, Fahmy told the court that his right shoulder “has been broken for 10 weeks and I sleep on the floor”. He added: “I ask you to free me on the guarantee from the Canadian embassy that I will not leave the country.”
The plight of the captives has sparked a global backlash against the Egyptian regime, which has moved to silence the press following its military-backed seizure of power after the Arab Spring and the toppling of Hosni Mubarak.
In February, journalists from around the glove started a viral campaign to release the detainees, posting pictures of solidarity on Twitter under the hash tag #FreeAJStaff.
Journalists for the Al-Jazeera network are currently prohibited from reporting from Egypt.