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Egyptian court sentences Al Jazeera journalists to three years in jail

An Egyptian court has handed down a three-year prison sentence at the retrial of three Al Jazeera journalists accused of supporting the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood. The case has aroused international condemnation.

An Egyptian court on Saturday gave three Al Jazeera journalists a three-year prison sentence on charges of broadcasting false news and working without permits, in a retrial called after an initial verdict was overturned by an appeals court.

Al Jazeera immediately condemned Saturday's court decision, calling it a "deliberate attack on press freedom."

The broadcaster's English acting director-general, Mostefa Souag, said the verdict "defies logic and common sense," adding that the "whole case has been heavily politicized and has not been conducted in a free and fair manner."

Human rights group Amnesty International said the verdict made "a mockery of justice in Egypt."

Canadian national Mohammed Fahmy, Australian journalist Peter Greste and Egyptian producer Baher Mohammed had initially been arrested and sentenced on charges of supporting the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood while covering events following the ouster of Islamist President Mohammed Morsi for the Qatar-based broadcaster.

'Outrageous' decision

Fahmy's lawyer, Amal Clooney, who had arrived to represent him for the first time in Saturday's proceedings, told DW that she might appeal to an international court following the retrial verdict.

Greste, speaking to Australian national television, called the verdict "devastating" fo him.

"We did nothing wrong, The prosecution presented no evidence that we did anything wrong and so for us to be convicted as terrorists on no evidence at all is frankly outrageous," he said.

He added that he and his lawyer would "pursue any other legal avenue we have."

Overturned verdicts

The journalists were sentenced to seven years in prison in June 2014, while Mohammed was given an additional three years after police searching his home found a bullet that he had picked up while reporting on clashes between Brotherhood supporters and security forces.

An appeals court overturned the verdicts, after finding there to be a scarcity of evidence against the journalists.

Greste was deported in February after serving 400 days, and was being retried in absentia, while both Fahmy and Mohamed have been out on bail since the retrial began in February. Fahmy, who had both Egyptian and Canadian citizenship, dropped the Egyptian one in the hope of being deported like Greste.

Previous hearings for a verdict in the retrial have been delayed several times.

Press freedom in danger?

Egyptian authorities have cracked down heavily on the Brotherhood after Morsi, one of its members, was ousted by the military in mid-2013.

The journalists were accused of being mouthpieces for the group and of airing falsified footage aimed at damaging national security.

All three men denied the charges, saying they were simply doing their job as reporters.

The case has drawn international condemnation of the Egyptian authorities for appearing to repress freedom of the press.

Al-Jazeera's Arabic channel had shown support for Morsi and Islamists, but Fahmy, Greste and Mohamed all worked for the broadcaster's English service.

tj/ng (AFP, AP)

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