An Egyptian court has sentenced three journalists from the news organization Al Jazeera to seven years imprisonment. They were arrested late last year for allegedly aiding Egypt’s banned Muslim Brotherhood.
In Cairo on Monday, a court handed down a long-awaited ruling on a case involving Al Jazeera journalists who have been held since December.
The three journalists – Australian Peter Greste, Canadian-Egyptian national Mohammed Fahmy and Al Jazeera International's Cairo bureau chief, Baher Mohammed (pictured left to right) - received a seven year prison sentence on terrorism-related charges. They were among 20 defendants on trial.
The Australian government said that it was "shocked" and "appalled" by the verdict.
"We are deeply dismayed that a sentence has been imposed and appalled at the severity of it," Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop said."It is hard to credit that the court in this case could have reached this conclusion," she added.
Al Jazeera network chief Mustafa Sawaq said that the evidence presented during the trial "was not enough to jail someone for a single day."
"We condemn...this kind of unjust verdict," Sawaq said.
The families of the defendants have vowed to appeal the verdict.
Detained for 'false reporting'
Egyptian authorities apprehended Greste, Fahmy and Mohammed last December, at which time they had been reporting on the downfall of former President Mohammed Morsi. They were subsequently charged with false reporting and collaborating with members of the Muslim Brotherhood.
"Al Jazeera has always rejected the charges against its journalists and maintains their innocence," the Qatar-based media organization said in response to the guilty verdict.
Mohammed, who worked as the Egyptian producer, received an additional three years, for "possession of ammunition," according to Al Jazeera on Monday.
The case sparked international outrage and concern among journalists who have faced increased difficulty in reporting in Egypt, where political upheaval has gripped the country since the ouster of long-time ruler Hosni Mubarak in early 2011.
kms/slk (AP, AFP, dpa)