After 13 legal sessions concerning the case of the three Al-Jazeera journalists, Mohamed Fahmy, Peter Greste, and Baher Mohamed (famously known as the ‘Marriott Cell’) they were finally sentenced to three years in prison on Saturday after a lengthy retrial. Baher Mohamed was sentenced to an additional six months and a 5,000 LE fine for possessing a used bulled casing. Australian national, Peter Greste, was sentenced in absentia after being extradited earlier this year.
The journalists had been incarcerated for 410 days before the trial, and the court announced that the time spent in prison would count as part of their sentence served.
Ultimately, after failing to provide adequate evidence to demonstrate that the journalists were affiliated with the terrorist organisation, the ruling judge, Hassan Farid, sentenced them to three years, for broadcasting ‘false news’
Prior to the final session of the retrial, many assumed that the chargers would be dropped. The prisoners and their loved ones voiced their hopes that they could put this horrible incident behind them, with the hashtag #FreeAJStaff
— Tarek Nasr (@TarekNasr360) August 29, 2015
If I am sent to Tora’s lifeless dungeons-I know my lawyer Amal Clooney & my wife will fight fiercely for my release pic.twitter.com/8VPrXl5dQs
— Mohamed Fadel Fahmy (@MFFahmy11) August 29, 2015
— Peter Greste (@PeterGreste) August 29, 2015
The court verdict was considered a direct attack on press freedoms, with the accused, their families, supporters, and foreign governments expressing their opinion on social media outlets.
Freedom of the press to investigate, report, and comment is fundamental to any free society and essential to democratic development. — Department of State (@StateDept) August 29, 2015
Keep shouting for us my colleagues I’m sorry. from now on will not be able to keep in touch with you #FreeAJStaff
— Baher Mohamed (@Bahrooz) August 29, 2015
The British Ambassador to Egypt weighed in on the verdict
— British Amb in Egypt (@FCOJohnCasson) August 29, 2015
And Egypt’s Foreign Ministry wasn’t too pleased about it
While some wondered why only the Ambassador was called out
Why only summon UK ambassador to Cairo,not Dutch,Canadian or Australian who made similar statements against verdict? http://t.co/oi19Awsjou
— Bel Trew – بل ترو (@Beltrew) August 30, 2015
Friends and supporters were disappointed, to say the least
On the way to Tora prison in order to provide .@MFFahmy11 with the blue prison suit. #Dejavu #HarperCallEgypt #shame — Sherif Fadel Fahmy (@Repent11) August 30, 2015 While some locals took to lamenting the state of affairs
— Andrew Reid (@spicksandspecks) August 29, 2015
As disappointing this verdict is, let’s not forget that there are still 41,000 political prisoners detained and many journalists behind bars
— قحيص المرشد (@qhesalmrshd8226) August 30, 2015
— Kim Vinnell (@kimvinnell) August 29, 2015