Trial of Al Jazeera staff adjourned, again

trial, Al Jazeera staff, kettle mag, fiona party
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On August 2nd a court in Cairo adjourned the retrial of three Al Jazeera journalists for the tenth time. The TENTH!

Australian Peter Greste, Egyptian Baher Mohamed, and Canadian Mohamed Fahmy were originally found guilty in June 2014 on charges of aiding a terrorist organisation (the now banned Muslim Brotherhood).

Greste and Fahmy were sentenced to seven years each, while Mohamed was sentenced to an extra three years for having a spent bullet in his possession at the time of the arrest. Other journalists were sentenced to ten years in absentia.

The ordeal for the three began in December 2013, when they were arrested after covering the aftermath of the ousting of President Mohamed Morsi by the army in July of that year. Shortly after their arrest, Egyptian media showed a video of the arrest and search of the hotel rooms in an attempt to demonise the journalists.

After a trial that can only be described as a sham (previous reports for other channels and music videos were submitted as evidence), everyone following the case was shocked when the sentences were announced.

From the beginning, there has been a worldwide campaign to keep the case in the public eye and to try and pressure Egypt to release the journalists with the hashtag #FreeAJStaff.


In January if this year, after 400 days, Peter Greste was suddenly and unceremoniously released from prison and deported from Egypt. Hoping to get deported as well, Mohamed Fahmy renounced is Egyptian citizenship; he is still in Egypt with Baher Mohamed after they were released on bail in February.

A retrial was granted in January and it has basically consisted of adjournments and questions about witnesses who have not turned up (including Peter Greste, who cannot go back to Egypt because he was deported).

Despite the lack of any evidence to back up the authorities accusations, nobody knows what is going to happen with this case.

Worryingly this case is not the only one of its kind, it’s just the most high profile at the moment. Over the past few year press freedom has reduced and more and more journalists and bloggers are paying the price for simply doing their job.

Groups like Reporters Without Borders and the Committee to Protect Journalists are reporting increases in attacks, arrests and deaths of journalists and bloggers.

Abdullah Elshamy was another Al Jazeera journalist who was imprisoned without charge for 10 months before being suddenly released shortly before the verdict in June 2014.

Mahmoud Abou Zeid, “Shawkan” has been imprisoned in Egypt without charge for over 700 days.

Raif Badawi was arrested in Saudi Arabia in 2012 and sentenced to 1000 lashes and ten years in prison plus a fine in 2014. He was blogging about free speech.

In Russia in 2006 the reporter Anna Politkovskaya was shot as she returned home from a shopping trip. While there have been people imprisoned for the murder, few believe that justice has been done.  

These cases, among many, many others, are not only to punish the targeted journalists, they are there to show others what could happen if they do not toe the preferred lines.

Even though Greste, Fahmy and Mohamed are out of prison, their lives are at a standstill until the trial is over. In the case of Fahmy and Mohamed, they cannot go about their daily lives, let alone return to work.

A free press is not pretty, and it does not fall into line; a free press should be able to report without interference and nobody should have to fear the authorities coming to arrest them simply for doing their job.