Cairo judge criticises trial of three journalists

Appeal judge says initial trial failed to provide conclusive evidence the defendants had helped the banned Muslim Brotherhood

A Cairo appeals judge has issued a damning appraisal of last year’s trial of three al-Jazeera English journalists, a month after he quashed their convictions and sent their case to a retrial that will begin on Thursday.

The initial trial failed to provide conclusive evidence that the defendants had helped the banned Muslim Brotherhood or promoted the group in the media, wrote Judge Anwar Gabry, the deputy head of the court of cassation, Egypt's highest court of appeal.

The judge said the initial trial also failed to investigate claims that the defendants had produced testimony under duress, and as a result “the court of cassation is unable to show how right or wrong the verdict is”. His judgment also questioned whether the journalists should have been accused of terrorism, since their alleged crimes were not violent.

The news will not affect Peter Greste, the Australian ex-BBC correspondent who was deported to Australia last week after 400 days in jail following immense international pressure to secure his release.



But it is a boost for his Egyptian colleague, Baher Mohamed, who remains on remand, has no foreign passport to secure his release by deportation, and whose only hopes of freedom lie in a retrial. His family welcomed the appeals court judgment, which they hope might herald the case being thrown out entirely at the retrial.

“I’m optimistic because the reasons listed by the cassation court strongly criticised the sentence,” his father, Hazem, said. “As soon as I read them, I was so optimistic, and I thought they could be released in the first session.”

But he acknowledged that Mohamed's lawyer had expressed more caution. Mohamed and Greste's third AJE colleague, their Canadian bureau chief Mohamed Fahmy, still hopes to be deported like Greste in the coming days. – (Guardian service)