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Egypt court sentences Al-Jazeera reporters to three years in jail

A global campaign has called for the journalists to be freed but an Egyptian court has ordered them to prison
Al-Jazeera journalists, Canadian Mohamed Fahmy (L) and Egyptian Baher Mohamed, wait outside Cairo's Torah prison where their trial session was due to take place on 30 July 2015 (AFP)
An Egyptian court sentenced three Al-Jazeera reporters to three years in prison on Saturday, despite a global campaign calling for their release.
Canadian Mohamed Fahmy and Egyptian producer Baher Mohamed were present in court. Australian journalist Peter Greste was tried in absentia after his deportation early this year. 

At least three other co-defendants, accused of working with Al-Jazeera, received similar sentences.

The three journalists were accused of supporting the blacklisted Muslim Brotherhood in their coverage for the Qatari-owned broadcaster, and in June 2014, were sentenced to seven years in prison.

Their retrial was ordered after an appeals court overturned an initial sentence of seven years in prison, saying the prosecution had presented scant evidence against them.

On Saturday,  judge Hassan Farid said it was clear to the court that the reporters "were not journalists" and had broadcast "false news" while operating in Egypt without a permit.

In a statement, Al Jazeera Media Network’s Acting Director General Dr Mostefa Souag called the verdict "an attack on press freedom."

"Today’s verdict defies logic and common sense. Our colleagues Baher Mohamed and Mohamed Fahmy will now have to return to prison, and Peter Greste is sentenced in absentia.”

“Today’s verdict is yet another deliberate attack on press freedom. It is a dark day for the Egyptian judiciary; rather than defend liberties and a free and fair media they have compromised their independence for political reasons.”

“Al Jazeera Media Network will continue to call for their freedom and an end to the ordeal for Baher, Peter and Mohamed and the six Al Jazeera staff who were sentenced in absentia”.

“We will not rest until Baher, Peter, Mohamed and the six Al Jazeera staff sentenced in absentia are freed and formally and definitively acquitted from the trumped up charges against them.”

Fahmy and Mohamed, who had been released on bail in February after over a year in jail, were taken back into custody after Saturday's verdict,

Fahmy, who is barred from leaving the country, had dropped his Egyptian citizenship in hopes of being deported as his colleague Greste was earlier this year. His lawyer, the London-based Amal Clooney, was present in court on Saturday, and is later due to meet government officials to press for his deportation and pardon.

"The only fair outcome of this trial is an acquittal," Clooney said after the verdict.

"There was no evidence and even the Egyptian high court said so," she told reporters in the court room.

Relatives and supporters in the court were dismayed by the verdict.

"I'm shocked. Terribly shocked. We waited for an acquittal and then found ourselves stuck again in the case. This is illogical," Fahmy's brother Adel said.

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