This story has been updated.
Update: Australia’s Minister for Foreign Affairs Julie Bishop expressed official support of compatriot Peter Greste, one of three Al Jazeera journalists given jail sentences by a court in Cairo Saturday. “I am dismayed by the decision today of the Egyptian District Court, which has found Peter Greste guilty of broadcasting offenses,” Bishop said in a statement. “I have spoken with Mr. Greste today and reaffirmed that I will continue to pursue all diplomatic avenues with my Egyptian counterpart to clear his name.”
A court in the Egyptian capital Cairo found three Al Jazeera journalists guilty of aiding a terrorist group and sentenced them all to three years in jail Saturday. The journalists, Canadian-Egyptian Mohammed Fahmy, Australian Peter Greste, and Egyptian producer Baher Mohammed, were detained in December 2013.
Judge Hassan Farid said the journalists spread “false news” in the country, brought certain equipment in Egypt without the authorization of security officials, and used a hotel as a broadcasting point without permission, the Associated Press (AP) reported. Additionally, Mohammed was sentenced to another six months for possession of a spent bullet casing.
Al Jazeera Media Network's Acting Director General Mostefa Souag condemned the verdict, saying: "Today's verdict defies logic and common sense. Our colleagues Baher Mohammed and Mohammed Fahmy will now have to return to prison, and Peter Greste is sentenced in absentia.
"The whole case has been heavily politicized and has not been conducted in a free and fair manner," he added, according to Al Jazeera.
Human rights lawyer Amal Clooney, who represented Fahmy, criticized the verdict, saying that it "sends a very dangerous message in Egypt," the AP reported.
"It sends a message that journalists can be locked up for simply doing their job, for telling the truth and reporting the news. And it sends a dangerous message that there are judges in Egypt who will allow their courts to become instruments of political repression and propaganda," Clooney reportedly said.
The journalists were first found guilty last June of assisting the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood, which the country declared as a terrorist organization after the army ousted president Mohammed Morsi in 2013. Greste and Fahmy were then sentenced to seven years in jail, while Mohammed was handed down 10 years of imprisonment.
However, in January, an appeals court ordered a retrial and said the initial court verdict did not have proper evidence against the three journalists. Since then, 10 sessions in the court have been adjourned during the trial.
In February, Fahmy and Mohammed were granted bail, while Greste was deported to his home country Australia under a new ruling that allowed Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi to extradite foreign defendants convicted or accused of crimes.