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Al Jazeera denounces postponement of journalists' court verdict

An Egyptian court has adjourned for the second time its verdict in the trial of three Al Jazeera reporters until end of August. The journalists are accused of aiding a "terrorist organization" with false reporting.

A court in the Egyptian capital Cairo on Sunday once again postponed the trial of three Al-Jazeera journalists accused of "spreading false news" in support of former Islamist President Mohammed Morsi's Muslim Brotherhood party. The group stands accused of diseminating false information during their coverage of the demonstrations after the Egyptian army ousted Morsi in 2013.

A judge at Sunday's hearing said the verdict was delayed because defendants could not be brought to the court from their cells.

"The accused are not present for security reasons, so the court decided to postpone the verdict to August 29," Judge Ahmed Yousry said.

The defendants – Canadian national Mohammed Fahmy, Australian journalist Peter Greste and Egyptian producer Baher Mohammed – said the decision to adjourn the hearing was an insult to them.

Greste, who is being retried in absentia, called the situation "frustrating as hell."

The court gave a similar decision on July 30 saying the main judge, Hassan Farid, was ill.

"It is more suffering for us, more waiting," Mohammed said after the postponement. "The ordeal continues and I have no idea what's going on," he added.

The retrial of the three was ordered in January by an appeals court that said the initial verdict lacked evidence. In the first trial last year, Greste and Fahmy were sentenced to seven years' imprisonment, and Mohamed to 10 years.

Greste has already been deported to Australia under a law allowing the transfer of foreigners on trial to return to their home countries. The other two defendants have been released on bail.

Al Jazeera's anger

The Qatar-based Al Jazeera news channel's acting managing director, Giles Trendle, denounced Sunday's decision in an interview with the network.

"We have found that the court … has been almost Kafkaesque in some of the ludicrous, groundless charges, in some strange decisions - even in the delays that you are seeing," Trendle said.

Al Jazeera has repeatedly called the trials "political," amid tensions between Egypt and Qatar, which supported Morsi's government.

Rights groups say that journalists and freedom of speech in Egypt are under threat from the government of President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi.

shs/jlw (AP, AFP, dpa)

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