Egypt: Al Jazeera journalists among several sentenced to death

Egypt: Al Jazeera journalists among several sentenced to death
2 min read
07 May, 2016
Accused of spying for Qatar, they were tried in absentia.
Previous Egyptian charges against journalists have resulted in protests around the world [AFP]
Charged with espionage, six people were condemned to death on Saturday by a court in Cairo.

The defendants, accused alongside ousted Islamist President Mohamed Morsi, were charged with providing classified Egyptian documents to Qatar.

Two of the group, named as Ibrahim Mohamed Hilal and Alaa Omar Mohamed Sablan, have been identified as Al Jazeera staffers. They were tried in absentia.

Asmaa Mohamed al-Khatib, of the pro-Brotherhood Rassd news outlet, was also sentenced to death in absentia.

The three were alleged to have helped relay secret material to Doha.

The judge's recommendation for their execution will now be put to Egypt's grand mufti, a religious official ultimately responsible for interpreting Islamic law and its application in civic jurisprudence.

The court is expected to sit again on June 18 to consider the mufti's decision, which, although non-binding, is usually respected by the judiciary. A further five defendants, including Morsi himself, will receive their sentences at this next hearing.

Morsi, the first elected president of Egypt in modern history, was strongly supported by Qatar before he was ousted in a military coup led by army chief-turned-president Abdel Fattah al-Sisi.

Since coming to power, Sisi has launched a severe crackdown on opposition and dissent, outlawing Morsi's Muslim Brotherhood and using anti-terrorism legislation against critics. A sit-in protest at Rabaa Square against Morsi's ousting was fired upon by police and security forces, leaving nearly 1,000 protesters dead.

Journalists have also been targeted in the crackdown.

While dozens of writers and reporters have been detained, three Al Jazeera English journalists - Peter Greste, Baher Mohamed and Mohamed Fahmy - were held in prison for more than a year, accused of supporting the Brotherhood. Mohamed and Fahmy were eventually pardoned, and Greste deported.

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