CAIRO- The trial of Al-Jazeera journalists accused of supporting deposed Egypt’s president Mohamed Morsi’s outlawed Muslim Brotherhood on Wednesday heard defendants charge they were tortured and denied medical care.
The high-profile trial is seen as a test of the military-installed government’s tolerance of independent media, with activists fearing a return to autocracy three years after the Arab Spring uprising that toppled longtime dictator Hosni Mubarak.
The trial of the Qatar-based channel’s journalists also comes against the backdrop of strained ties with Doha, which was a strong supporter of Morsi and his now-banned Brotherhood.
The 20 defendants include well-known Australian reporter Peter Greste. Eight of them are in custody, and the rest on the run or abroad.
They are accused of supporting the Brotherhood and broadcasting false reports, after police shut down the Cairo offices of Al-Jazeera Mubasher Misr, the network’s Egyptian channel, following the military’s July 3 overthrow of Morsi.
Latvia said it expected Egypt to immediately release Greste, a dual Australian-Latvian citizen “as he has committed no crime.”
“The Egyptian authorities have promised a fair trial,” Latvian foreign ministry spokesman Karlis Eihenbaums told AFP.
Prosecutors say the defendants worked with the Egyptian channel without proper press accreditation. The defendants say they work with Al-Jazeera English.