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Al Jazeera journalists plead not guilty to charges in Egypt court

Egypt put three Al Jazeera [media website] journalists on trial on Thursday for allegedly aiding a terrorist organization and spreading false news. All three men, Peter Greste, Mohamed Fahmy and Baher Mohamed, pleaded not guilty [Reuters report] to the charges. Al Jazeera has stated that the accusations are absurd and the three men are innocent. The Egyptian government contends that the journalists have supplied money, equipment and information to the Muslim Brotherhood [party website; JURIST news archive], a group that the government has declared to be a terrorist organization [JURIST report]. Greste, Fahmy and Mohamed were detained [JURIST report] in December. Since their arrests, journalists have protested [Al Jazeera report] worldwide asking for their release. The court postponed that case until March 5.

Egypt has dealt with political unrest since the Egyptian Revolution, and anti-government protesters and supporters of the Islamic Muslim Brotherhood continue to fight the military backed government for political control in the country. The Committee to Protect Journalists [advocacy website] has found [JURIST report] Egypt to be the third deadliest nation for journalists. Earlier this month an Egyptian court acquitted [JURIST report] an Al Jazeera television cameraman and 61 others accused of participating in demonstrations in Cairo last July. In January Egyptian prosecutors charged [JURIST report] 20 Al Jazeera journalists, including Greste, Fahmy and Mohamed, with joining or conspiring with a terrorist group and broadcasting false images. Recently, the Egyptian government took a major step in governmental reform through the drafting of a new constitution, which was ratified [JURIST report] by 98 percent of voters last month. Egyptians voted [JURIST report] on the new military-backed constitution on January 16, with news reports citing a 42 percent voter turnout rate coupled with serious irregularities in the voting records.

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