Jailing of three Al Jazeera journalists in Egypt is ‘incompetent travesty’, claims Manchester politics expert

The jailing of three Al Jazeera journalists in Egypt has been branded an ‘incompetent travesty’ by a Manchester political academic.

The trio were accused of spreading false reports and conspiring with the Muslim Brotherhood, a group who Egyptian authorities have declared as a terrorist organisation.

Former BBC correspondent Peter Greste, from Australia,  ex-CNN journalist Mohamed Fahmy, and Egyptian based producer Baher Mohamed were jailed for seven, seven and 10 years respectively.

Four students and activists trailed in the case were sentenced to seven years.

All three journalists were arrested during a raid at a make shift studio based at a Marriot hotel in December 2013.

Doctor Steven Hurst, Reader in Politics from Manchester Metropolitan University, claims that the lack of evidence in the ‘shambolic’ trail highlights the wider state of ‘disrepair’ that Egypt is in.

“The ruling is obviously a travesty but it isn’t even a very competently organized travesty,” he said.

“The lack of evidence and generally shambolic way in which the case was handled does look like evidence of a system which is in disrepair.”

Australian journalist Greste raised his fist in the air when the seven-year sentence was announced.

Fahmy, who also received seven years, shouted from the defendants’ cage: “I swear they will pay for this.”

Producer Baher Mohamed was sentenced to an additional three years for possession of ammunition of which was a spent bullet casing he had found on the ground during a protest.

But Dr Hurst did not believe that the rulings will have any impact on relations between Egypt and the West going forward.

“With regard to its impact on Egypt’s foreign relations, I don’t think it will be very significant at all,” he said.

“Western countries don’t generally make their foreign policy on the basis of human rights abuses unless the human rights abusers happen to be enemies or opponents of the West like Iran.

“Egypt is too important to US Middle East policy (and by extension that of the UK) for matters like this to shape Western policy in any kind of decisive way.

“That said, I wouldn’t be surprised if the sentences were commuted/overturned by presidential decree at some point in the not too distant future, rather as the Greenpeace activists in Russia were freed. It will suit Sisi to look magnanimous and the frightening effect of the initial sentences will have done the job of scaring the media.”

The NUJ (national Union of Journalists) were just one of many news orgainastions who tweeted their anguish over the trial.

ITN and Chanel 4 also joined in the campaign that was being promoted using the hastag #FreeAJStaff


Image courtesy of ITV News via YouTube, with thanks.

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