Three journalists who were arrested while working for Al Jazzera in Egypt were found guilty Monday of reporting false news and assisting the Muslim Brotherhood following the ousting of Mohamed Morsi in July 2013. Peter Greste, Mohamed Fahmy, and Baher Mohamed were all given jail sentences of between 7 to 10 years, sparking outrage among fellow journalists and human rights observers.
Greste was an Australian correspondent for Al Jazeera; Fahmy and Mohamed worked at the station's Egyptian bureau. Ten other Al Jazeera journalists were tried and sentenced in absentia.
Arrested in December, Greste and Fahmy were sentenced to seven years in jail, and Mohamed was sentenced to 10 years, according to Al Jazeera, in a trial that many claim lacked any substantial evidence. As Al Jazeera reports, evidence against Greste, Fahmy, and Moahmed included "a BBC podcast, a news report made while none of the accused were in Egypt, a pop video by the Australian singer Gotye, and several recordings on non-Egyptian issues."
Following the verdict, Al Jazeera English managing director Al Anstey released a statement:
Today three colleagues and friends were sentenced, and will continue behind bars for doing a brilliant job of being great journalists. “Guilty” of covering stories with great skill and integrity. ”Guilty” of defending people’s right to know what is going on in their world ... There is no justification whatsoever in the detention of our three colleagues for even one minute. To have detained them for 177 Days is an outrage. To have sentenced them defies logic, sense, and any semblance of justice.
The verdict comes just one day after Secretary of State John Kerry met with Egyptian president Abdel Fattah el-Sisi and announced the United States would unfreeze $575 million in aid to Egypt. The New York Times reports that Kerry and el-Sisi discussed the Al Jazeera journalists and the impending verdict and that Kerry's "words for President Sisi were notably warm." Kerry said that el-Sisi "gave me a very strong sense of his commitment ... [to] a re-evaluation of the judicial process."
Australia's ABC News was with the parents of Peter Greste's when they learned the heartbreaking news.