One Year On, Jailed Al Jazeera Journalists Await Appeal
'All three are prisoners of conscience and should be immediately and unconditionally released,' said Hannah Harborow of Amnesty International
Three Al Jazeera journalists marked their first year in jail in Egypt on Monday, maintaining hope that an upcoming appeal will bring good news in the case that has sparked international outrage since their arrests last year.
Baher Mohamed, Mohamed Fahmy, and Peter Greste were taken into custody on December 29, 2013 in Cairo on charges of supporting the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood, broadcasting false news, and endangering Egypt's national security. Greste and Fahmy were both sentenced to seven years in prison, while Mohamed, who is Egyptian, received ten years.
On Thursday, January 1, Egypt's Court of Cassation will hear an appeal for the three journalists. Rather than looking at the facts of the case, the court will determine whether the original trial was conducted correctly under Egyptian law. From there, depending on their findings, the court may either dismiss the case, uphold the verdict, or order a retrial.
"The sentiment of injustice is overwhelming," Mohamed's wife, Jehan Rashed, told Al Jazeera on Monday.
"I wonder if the [Egyptian] Army and Police are protecting the people," Rashed said. "They came to arrest a journalist, while realizing deep within he is a respectable professional, but they acted as if he was a felon."
Egyptian President Abdeh Fattah al-Sisi has the power to make a presidential pardon, but has said that he will not interfere with the judicial process.
Greste's brothers, Mike and Andrew, told reporters in Australia on Monday that they were "a bit hopeful" that Peter would be freed upon appeal, which they said would be "very strong, very compelling."
A statement from their parents read, "We are just a small cog in a massive fight for justice. We will not give up seeking his freedom until he is released... It is important we continue the spotlight on the judicial process and ensure that it continues to be scrutinized. Justice delayed is justice denied."
Rashed and Greste's family join the chorus of voices who have been calling for the journalists' release since their arrests last year, including human rights watchdogs.
Amnesty International Australia Campaigns Manager Hannah Harborow reiterated that call on Monday. "These three journalists have committed no crime. They have been wrongfully imprisoned for 365 days for simply doing their job," she said in a statement. "They were convicted in a trial that was widely condemned as farcical all because their reporting was seen by authorities to challenge the political narrative."
"All three are prisoners of conscience and should be immediately and unconditionally released," she added.
Mohamed, Fahmy, and Greste were arrested as part of a years-long crackdown on human rights activism and civil liberties in the wake of the 2011 Egyptian Revolution which saw the ouster of then-President Hosni Mubarak.
"Egypt’s criminal justice system is spiraling rapidly out of control. Courts are busy locking up government critics and political activists, while letting security forces and officials responsible for serious human rights violations walk free," Harborow said. "The judicial system used to be one of the few bodies willing to challenge the authorities. “Now it is simply a tool to crush anyone who challenges the authorities."
On Twitter, supporters of the reporters posted demands for their freedom, sending out Tweets that read, "#FreeAJStaff" and "Journalism is not a crime."