Al Jazeera journalists jailed in Egypt, supporters stunned

Jun 23 2014, 16:15 IST
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SummaryThree Al Jazeera journalists were jailed for seven years in Egypt on Monday after a court convicted them of...

after the verdict.

Australia's ambassador Ralph King also said his prime minister would make his disappointment clear after entreaties made by his government in recent days appeared to make little difference.

Egyptian officials have said the case is not linked to freedom of expression and that the journalists raised suspicions by operating without proper accreditation.

The trial began on Feb. 20. The journalists, known in the Egyptian media as "The Marriott Cell" because they worked from a hotel of the U.S.-based chain, appeared in metal court cages.

Qatar-based television network Al Jazeera has previously said the accusations are absurd.

One of the defence lawyers, Shaaban Saeed, said there had been no respect for due process during the trial.

"We were expecting innocence but there is no justice in this country. Politics is what judges," Saeed said.

The government has declared the Brotherhood a terrorist group. The Brotherhood says it is a peaceful organisation.

The Gulf state of Qatar, which funds Al Jazeera, backs the Muslim Brotherhood. Its ties with Egypt have been strained since Sisi ousted Mursi last year after mass protests against his troubled one-year rule.

Al Jazeera's Cairo offices have been closed since July 3 when security forces raided them hours after Mursi's ouster.

"These ... verdicts are a stark admission that in today's Egypt, simply practicing professional journalism is a crime and that the new constitution's guarantees of free expression are not worth the paper they are written on," said Sarah Leah Whitson, Human Rights Watch's Middle East and North Africa director.

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