[JURIST] Egypt’s Court of Cassation on Thursday, ordered a retrial for three Al Jazeera [media website] journalists jailed for falsifying news reports and associating with the Muslim Brotherhood [party website]. The three journalists are Peter Greste, Mohamed Fadel Fahmy and Baher Mohamed. Greste and Fahmy are both foreign nationals; Greste is Australian, and Fahmy holds both Egyptian and Canadian citizenship. Both were sentenced to seven year prison terms. Mohamed is Egyptian, and he was sentenced to a 10 year prison term. They were first arrested in December 2013, months after Al Jazeera took legal action [JURIST report] against the government for its alleged wrongful detainment of journalists for political reasons. At their last hearing in May, the journalists were denied bail [JURIST report]. The journalists were not present for the hearing Thursday morning which lasted 30 minutes. Reporters were also banned from the proceedings. This was not the result that many of the journalists’ supporters hoped for, as some hoped that the journalists would have been released on bail pending the retrial. The new trial is believed to occur within a month. Supporters of the journalists, such as Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui, Amnesty International’s [advocacy website] Middle East and North Africa Deputy Director argue that the men “should never have been jailed in the first place and should not have to spend one more day in prison. Instead of prolonging their unjust detention pending a retrial, they must be freed immediately” [press release].
Egypt has been plagued by violence and mass arrests with thousands jailed since the 2011 revolution [JURIST backgrounder]. Last month an Egyptian court convicted 40 supporters of former president Mohammed Morsi [BBC profile; JURIST news archive] for committing violence last year in the wake of Morsi’s ousting by the Egyptian military. Also last month Egypt’s top prosecutor referred [JURIST report] 439 individuals to a military tribunal for the killing of three police officers last year. Earlier last month 188 individuals were sentenced [JURIST report] to death over the murder of eleven Egyptian police officers. In October military tribunals sentenced [JURIST report] 23 activists to three years in prison for protesting without a permit, an act that violates a law enacted [JURIST report] in November 2013. Also in November an Egyptian court referred [JURIST report] five students from Al-Azhar University [academic website, in Arabic] to a military trial over a violent protest in January when part of a campus building was torched.