The sentencing Monday of three Al-Jazeera English journalists in Egypt, who were convicted of aiding the Muslim Brotherhood and producing fake news reports in an effort to destabilize the country, was met with condemnation from the satellite broadcast channel and others.
"Today three colleagues and friends were sentenced, and will continue to be kept behind bars for doing a brilliant job of being great journalists,” said Al-Jazeera English Managing Director Al Anstey after two of the journalists -- Peter Greste and Mohammed Fahmy -- were sentenced to seven years in prison and the other -- Baher Mohammed -- received a 10-year sentence. “'Guilty' of covering stories with great skill and integrity. 'Guilty' of defending people’s right to know what is going on in their world.”
Anstey said the verdicts went against “logic, sense and any semblance of justice.” Evidence to support the charges included a BBC podcast that the defendants were not involved in producing, a report that was made while the three Al-Jazeera journalists were not in Europe, a video by the Australian singer Gotye, and a number of recordings that had nothing to do with Egypt.
"Peter, Mohamed, and Baher and six of our other colleagues were sentenced despite the fact that not a shred of evidence was found to support the extraordinary and false charges against them,” Anstey added. “At no point during the long-drawn-out 'trial' did the absurd allegations stand up to scrutiny. There is only one sensible outcome now: for the verdict to be overturned, and justice to be recognized by Egypt.”
Before the Al-Jazeera journalists were arrested in December, the Muslim Brotherhood was deemed a terrorist group by the Egyptian military, which took over the country after the ouster of President Mohammed Morsi.
Patrick Kingsley, the Guardian's Egypt correspondent, pointed out that while the trial of the Al-Jazeera journalists has received immense media attention, similar sentences are handed down in Egypt all the time.
After learning of the verdict, Greste’s brother said he was “devastated, dumbfounded, shattered,” according to the BBC. On Twitter, others shared the same sentiment.
The hashtag #FreeAJStaff was taken up by some users who suggested that the Al-Jazeera journalists should be freed.
Al Jazeera journalists jailed for 7 years in Egypt, "simply practicing professional journalism in Egypt is a crime" http://t.co/TASF7Au728
â€” Colette Browne (@colettebrowne) June 23, 2014
â€” Margot Kiser (@MargotKiser) June 23, 2014
â€” Godfrey Ikenna (@igo4igo) June 23, 2014
Al Jazeera journalists sentenced to 7 years. Unbelievable, disgraceful, outrageous. #FreeAJStaff
â€” Meredith Frost (@MeredithFrost) June 23, 2014
Human rights and press freedom groups were among those who spoke out, including the Amsterdam arm of Amnesty International, Index on Censorship CEO Jodie Ginsberg and Nadim Houry, deputy director for the Middle East and North Africa for Human Rights Watch.
â€” Amnesty NL (@amnestynl) June 23, 2014
The judgment is outrageous. But don't be surprised. Same judiciary sentencing 100s of Egyptians to deaths in lighting trials #AJTrial
â€” Nadim Houry (@nadimhoury) June 23, 2014
â€” Jodie Ginsberg (@jodieginsberg) June 23, 2014