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Egypt court denies bail for Al Jazeera journalists

[JURIST] An Egyptian court on Saturday denied bail for three Al Jazeera [media website] journalists being imprisoned on charges of false reporting, and extended the imprisonment of a fourth journalist for 45 days. Al Jazeera English Journalists Mohamed Fahmy, Peter Greste and Baher Mohamed, are charged with falsifying news and association with the Muslim Brotherhood [party website], a group that the current government has declared a terrorist organization [JURIST report]. In the bail hearing, Fahmy argued [Al Jazeera report] against the charges on the grounds that as a journalist it was necessary that he have contacts in the Muslim Brotherhood as well as in the country's government. Greste, Fahmy and Mohamed were detained in December, months after Al Jazeera took legal action [JURIST reports] against the government for its alleged wrongful detainment of journalists for political reasons. At their last hearing in March 31 the judge ordered an investigation into whether three of the students were beaten during their arrest by Egyptian security forces. The journalists had pleaded not guilty [JURIST report]. Abdulla Elshamy, a fourth al Jazeera journalist, was sentenced to another 45 days in prison despite the fact that he still has not had any charges brought against him. Elshamy has been in prison for 262 days and has been on hunger strike for more than 100 days in protest of his detainment. Al Jazeera has denied all accusations against its staff and advocated for their release.

Political conflict in Egypt has been ongoing since the 2011 revolution [JURIST backgrounder], most recently between supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood and the former government of Mohammed Morsi, and supporters of the new government in place since Morsi's ouster [JURIST report]. Last month, Amnesty International (AI) [advocacy website] urged Egypt [JURIST report] to release the three Al Jazeera journalists, calling the continued detention "vindictive." In February 2014, 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. Given the continued unrest, the Committee to Protect Journalists [advocacy website] last December.

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