BEIRUT

Middle East

Egypt trial for Jazeera journalists set for Feb 20

Activists and journalists take part in a demonstration in support of the Al-Jazeera staff, who have been detained by Egyptian authorities since last year, in the Lebanese capital Beirut on February 8, 2014. (AFP PHOTO/ANWAR AMRO)

CAIRO: Al-Jazeera journalists accused of backing Egypt's blacklisted Muslim Brotherhood are to go on trial on February 20, judicial sources said on Monday.

Since president Mohamed Morsi was ousted by the military in July, Egypt's interim government has been incensed by Al-Jazeera television's coverage of a deadly crackdown against the Brotherhood to which the deposed Islamist belongs.

On January 30, prosecutors referred to trial 20 people they said worked as journalists for Al-Jazeera, accusing them of portraying Egypt in a state of "civil war" and "airing false news".

The Qatar-based network said last week that only "nine network staff are on the list of 20, meaning most of those named are not employees of Al-Jazeera."

Those on trial are 16 Egyptians and four foreigners -- including Australian Peter Greste, Britons Sue Turton and Dominic Kane, and Dutch journalist Rena Netjes.

Of the 20, only eight are in detention --including Greste and Al-Jazeera English's Cairo bureau chief, Canadian-Egyptian Mohamed Adel Fahmy.

The others are being sought, the prosecution said.

The 16 Egyptians have been charged with belonging to a "terrorist organisation... and harming national unity and social peace".

The four foreigners are accused of "collaborating with the Egyptians by providing them with money, equipment, information... and airing false news aimed at informing the outside world that the country was witnessing a civil war."

Netjes fled Egypt last week and said she was told by the Dutch embassy in Cairo that her name was on the list for prosecution.

She also said she could have been implicated in the case over a conversation she had with Fahmy in a hotel lobby in December.

"I never worked for Al-Jazeera, ever," she wrote on Twitter.

Greste, Fahmy and Egyptian producer Baher Mohamed were arrested on December 29 at their makeshift office in a Cairo hotel.

Fahmy, a well-known journalist in Cairo who previously worked with CNN, has no known ties with the Brotherhood.

Greste formerly worked for the BBC and won the prestigious Peabody Award in 2011 for a documentary on Somalia.

If convicted, the foreigners could face up to seven years in jail and the Egyptians 15. Officials also say the defendants were operating without official accreditation.

The government declared the Brotherhood a "terrorist organisation" in December after a suicide car bombing at a police headquarters killed 15 people north of Cairo.

The attack was condemned by the Brotherhood and claimed by an Al-Qaeda inspired group.

 

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Summary

Al-Jazeera journalists accused of backing Egypt's blacklisted Muslim Brotherhood are to go on trial on February 20, judicial sources said on Monday.

Those on trial are 16 Egyptians and four foreigners -- including Australian Peter Greste, Britons Sue Turton and Dominic Kane, and Dutch journalist Rena Netjes.

Of the 20, only eight are in detention --including Greste and Al-Jazeera English's Cairo bureau chief, Canadian-Egyptian Mohamed Adel Fahmy.

Fahmy, a well-known journalist in Cairo who previously worked with CNN, has no known ties with the Brotherhood.

If convicted, the foreigners could face up to seven years in jail and the Egyptians 15 .


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