Al Jazeera said on Tuesday that the verdict given in absentia to its broadcaster reveals how the Egyptian judicial system is politicised and continues to use its authority to intimidate journalists.
One of Al Jazeera Arabic’s presenters, Ahmed Mansour, was sentenced on Saturday to 15 years in prison on charges of torturing and sexually assaulting a lawyer during the 2011 uprising against former president Hosni Mubarak.
Al Jazeera called the charge “absurd”, and said that the ruling was unjust and provides further evidence of the attempt to silence journalists, tarnish their reputations and disrupt their work in their Tuesday statement.
“Ahmed Mansour himself has been targeted with more than 150 false accusations and complaints against him by the Egyptian authorities, this verdict being just one of them,” said Al Jazeera spokesperson Osama Saeed.
“This case is another illustration of how Al Jazeera Media Network is paying the price for its professionalism…Scores have faced harassment, been arrested, and even lost their lives for the sake of getting the truth to viewers and readers,” the statement said.
The statement added that the verdict is “another bizarre and unjust targeting of Al Jazeera journalists”, referring to a 23 June 2014 verdict that sentenced three journalists to prison for 7 to 10 years.
Of the 20 defendants in the drawn out trial, the crux of the prosecution’s arguments rested on three Al Jazeera English journalists: Cairo Bureau Chief Mohamed Fadel Fahmy, a Canadian citizen; correspondent Peter Greste, an Australian national; and producer Baher Mohamed, an Egyptian.
Al Jazeera Media Network called on the Egyptian authorities to refrain from character assassinations against journalists in their attempts to unfairly tarnish reputations. “The network renews its demand for all jailed journalists to be released and stands firmly by its colleagues,” the statement added.
Freedom and Justice Party (FJP) leader Mohamed Al-Beltagy, former Muslim Brotherhood-affiliated MP Hazem Farouk, and Islamist preacher Safwat Hegazy were also sentenced to 15 years imprisonment with hard labour for torturing the lawyer.
Former youth minister Osama Yassin, head of the legislative committee of the dissolved parliament Mahmoud Al-Khodeiry, and former Brotherhood- affiliated MPs Mohsen Rady and Amr Zaki were also found guilty and sentenced to three years imprisonment.
The prosecutor general referred them to trial in November 2013 for the incident, alleged to have occurred on 3 February 2011 in the office of a tourism company in Tahrir Square.