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Al-Jazeera trial dismissed as ‘joke’








Baher Mohamed (left), Mohamed Adel Fahmy (second left), and Peter Greste (file photo)The three accused, pictured at an earlier hearing, have strenuously denied the charges

Three al-Jazeera journalists have denounced as a “joke” the latest hearing in their trial on terrorism charges in Egypt.

On Thursday, prosecutors presented as evidence footage allegedly filmed by the defendants, including wildlife scenes and news conference.

The men, including ex-BBC reporter Peter Greste, have been held since December. They deny the charges.

The case has been condemned by rights groups and media around the world.

The three journalists – producer Baher Mohamed and Al-Jazeera English’s Canadian-Egyptian bureau chief Mohamed Fadel Fahmy – are among 20 people facing similar charges. Only eight are currently in custody, while the remaining 12 are being tried in absentia.

Another man on trial with the three journalists – a student who has been on hunger strike for two weeks – passed out in court.

A fourth al-Jazeera reporter, Abdullah al-Shami, who works for the network’s Arabic channel, has been detained since August but not charged.

Mr Shami is on hunger strike and his wife says his health is deteriorating.


‘Like a sit-com’

The BBC’s Orla Guerin, who was in court, says none of the videos shown at the hearing appeared to have any link to the case.

There were several stories from Sky News’s Arabic channel – including, bizarrely, a report on animal welfare in Egypt, our correspondent says.

Material from Peter Greste’s laptop was examined, including a news conference from Kenya, a documentary he made in Somalia and some of his parents’ holiday photos.

AFP news agency said the judge told prosecutors the footage from Kenya had “nothing to do with this case”.

From inside their cages in court, Mr Greste shouted that the trial was a mockery and an embarrassment for Egypt.

Outside court, Peter Greste’s brother Mike told the BBC the trial was “like a TV sit-com”. He said it would be funny if Peter Greste and his colleagues had not been in jail for more than 100 days.

The judge ordered the prison authorities to allow more family visits and said other student defendants on trial with them should get access to their books.

The trial was adjourned until 22 April.


New arrest

Egyptian authorities accuse the al-Jazeera journalists of aiding the Islamist Muslim Brotherhood, which has been banned as a terrorist group.

The defendants’ detention has been criticised by human rights groups including Amnesty International, which has described them as “prisoners of conscience” and called for their immediate and unconditional release.

On Wednesday, in a separate development, another journalist, who had previously worked for al-Jazeera, was arrested in Egypt

Abdel-Rahman Shaheen, who was detained in the Suez Canal area, is accused of taking part and inciting attacks against police, the country’s state news agency Mena said.

The report also identified him as a journalist who worked for the Brotherhood’s now-banned newspaper and television station.

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