Trial of al-Jazeera journalists descends into farce in Cairo

Egyptian prosecutors present entire contents of journalists’ raided hotel rooms as evidence

Journalists   stand in a court cage in Cairo yesterday during their trial for allegedly supporting a terrorist group and spreading false information. Photograph: EPA/Tarek Wajeh/Almasry Alyoum

Journalists stand in a court cage in Cairo yesterday during their trial for allegedly supporting a terrorist group and spreading false information. Photograph: EPA/Tarek Wajeh/Almasry Alyoum

Thu, Mar 6, 2014, 01:00

Patrick Kingsley
in Cairo


The second day of the trial of three al-Jazeera journalists in Egypt descended into farce yesterday when prosecutors presented the entire contents of their raided hotel rooms as evidence.

Australian ex-BBC correspondent Peter Greste, Canadian-Egyptian ex-CNN journalist Mohamed Fahmy and local producer Baher Mohamed are among 20 people on trial in Egypt on charges of spreading misinformation and aiding terrorists. The case has been portrayed worldwide as a serious attack on Egyptian press freedom.

But the case took a tragicomic turn when prosecutors presented box after box of everyday items and broadcast equipment as evidence of alleged terrorism – many as innocuous as electric cables and a computer keyboard.

Yesterday’s session shone a rare light on other defendants, some of whom have nothing to do with al-Jazeera. Sohaib Said, a political science student, interrupted proceedings to say he had been tortured in custody and denied family visits, and did not understand why he was involved in the case.

Greste – who does not speak Arabic – was not provided with an interpreter.

Later in the session, defence lawyers cross-examined the secret policemen who investigated the journalists. One admitted he did not know the difference between al-Jazeera English, for whom the three journalists worked, and the channel’s Egyptian offshoot banned by Egypt’s government. The trial continues. – (Guardian service)