Egypt Sentences Three Al Jazeera Journalists to Seven Years in Prison

Mohamed Fahmy, Baher Mohamed and Peter Greste in court in Cairo

The correspondents were reporting for the network's English-language news channel when they were detained in December, accused of conspiring with the Muslim Brotherhood, which they strenuously deny.

An Egyptian court has sentenced three Al Jazeera journalists to seven years in prison each. Mohamed Fahmy, Baher Mohamed and Peter Greste were reporting for the network's English-language news channel when they were detained last December, accused of spreading false news and conspiring with the Muslim Brotherhood. Both Al Jazeera and the journalists have strenuously denied the charges. 

Al Jazeera English managing director Al Anstey issued a statement saying that the conviction "defies logic, sense and any semblance of justice."

He added, "There is only one sensible outcome now — for the verdict to be overturned and justice to be recognized by Egypt. We must keep our voice loud to call for an end to their detention."

The journalists are widely respected in their field, and the prosecution has been condemned by international press groups, foreign governments and international human rights organizations. Greste previously worked for CNN, Reuters and the BBC. Fahmy, Al Jazeera's bureau chief in Cairo at the time of his arrest, also spent time at CNN. 

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"Mohammed, Baher, and Peter are first-class journalists," Anstey said some months after their detention. "They were just doing their jobs, covering and challenging all sides of the story in Egypt."

Amnesty International has alleged that the reporters are the unlucky pawns in a broader geopolitical spat between Egypt and Qatar, the tiny oil- and gas-rich state that owns Al Jazeera. Qatar is believed to be an ally of the Muslim Brotherhood, the Islamic political group that was thrown out of power in Egypt last year, along with former President Mohamed Morsi. Egypt has since labeled the Muslim Brotherhood a terrorist organization and banned it from Egyptian politics. 

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On Sunday, Secretary of State John Kerry said he spoke "specifically about Al Jazeera journalists" during a sit-down with Egypt's new president, Abdel Fattah el-Sisi. Kerry said they "discussed the essential role of a vibrant civil society, a free press, and rule of law, and due process in a democracy," but he made no guarantees about the outcome for the journalists.