CAIRO- An Egyptian court is to deliver its verdict Monday in the trial of Al-Jazeera journalists accused of aiding the blacklisted Muslim Brotherhood in a case that has sparked an international outcry.
Since the army ousted Islamist president Mohamed Morsi in July 2013, the authorities have been incensed by the Qatari network’s coverage of their deadly crackdown on his supporters.
They consider Al-Jazeera as the voice of Qatar, and accuse Doha of backing Morsi’s Brotherhood, while the emirate openly denounces the repression of the Islamist movement’s supporters which has killed more than 1,400 people.
Australian Peter Greste, Egyptian-Canadian Mohamed Fadel Fahmy and producer Baher Mohamed, who work for Al-Jazeera English, have been tried with 17 others on charges of “spreading false news” and having Brotherhood links.
The three have been detained for nearly six months, along with six others.
Al-Jazeera says only nine of the 20 defendants are on its staff, including two foreign reporters who are abroad. A Dutch journalist, who is not working with the channel, is also among the defendants.
Sixteen are Egyptians accused of belonging to the Brotherhood, which the military-installed government designated a “terrorist organization” in December.
The four foreigners are also alleged to have collaborated with and assisted their Egyptian co-defendants by providing media material, as well as editing and broadcasting it.
“On June 23, the entire world will be watching Egypt to see whether they uphold the values of press freedom,” Al-Jazeera said.
On Sunday, US Secretary of State John Kerry also called for freedom of the press to be upheld in Egypt as he made a surprise visit to Cairo.
Kerry said he discussed with Egyptian officials “the essential role of a vibrant civil society, free press, rule of law and due process in a democracy”.
Prosecutors have demanded the maximum penalty for all defendants. The 16 Egyptians could be jailed for 25 years, while the foreigners could get 15 years, their lawyers say.