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Al Jazeera journalists given jail terms in #AJTrial

Three Al Jazeera journalists have been sentenced to seven years in prison by an Egyptian court on Monday
The Al Jazeera journalists have been held since their arrest in Cairo in December last year (AFP)

Three Al Jazeera journalists were sentenced to seven years in jail by an Egyptian court on Monday morning, convicted on charges of assisting the banned Muslim Brotherhood and reporting false news.

Mohamed Fahmy, Peter Greste and Baher Mohamed appeared in court to hear their verdicts after a trial lasting more than four months, with each defendant receiving a minimum of seven years in prison. Mohamed received an additional three-year sentence for possession of ammunition.

Six other Al Jazeera journalists were sentenced to 10 years in absentia, while students Anas al-Beltagy and Ahmed Ibrahim, who both say they were tortured in custody, were acquitted.

Greste is an Australian journalist who was formerly a correspondent for the BBC, while Canadian-Egyptian Fahmy acted as Al-Jazeera’s Cairo bureau chief and Mohamed worked as a local producer for the Doha-based broadcaster. They were arrested last December in Cairo while covering a crackdown against supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood, after a military-backed coup removed the country's first elected president Mohamed Morsi from power.

More than 41,000 people have been detained for political reasons since last July's coup and over 1,500 people killed, as authorities have moved to shutdown protests by anti-coup movements. Hundreds of people have been sentenced to death in swift trials decried by human rights groups and there have been widespread allegations of detainees being tortured in prison.

Evidence in the trial of the Al-Jazeera journalists centred on prosecutors producing a BBC documentary about Somalia, a video of Australian singer-songwriter Gotye performing and numerous other recordings of reports on issues relating to non-Egyptian issues. Prior to the verdict being handed down human rights activists said there was no case to answer for the journalists.

“Technically, I don’t see how a court can convict any of the defendants based on the evidence we have seen,” Mohamed Lotfy, executive director of the Egyptian Commission for Rights and Freedoms, told the Guardian.

A global campaign led by Al Jazeera has seen mass solidarity with the jailed journalists, and widespread criticism that the trial has been politicised and undermines freedom of speech in Egypt. Diplomats from the UK, Canada and other countries attended the verdict session on Monday, sparking unfulfilled hope diplomatic pressure could lead to the defendants being released.

Social media users have been quick to express their anger at the verdicts, with many saying the case represents a dark day for press freedom in Egypt.

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