- The Washington Times - Monday, June 23, 2014

Three journalists employed by Al-Jazeera Qatar were sentenced to seven years in prison by Egypt court authorities who found them guilty of collaborating with terrorists and making up news.

The journalists were already detained and behind bars at the Tora prison complex when the sentence was handed down, The Washington Post reported. The three — Egyptian-Canadian national Mohamed Fadel Fahmy, Australian Peter Greste and Egyptian cameraman Mohamed Baher — worked for the English language unit of the company.

The verdict is the latest in the Egypt government’s crackdown on perceived dissidents and especially members of the media seen as working with deemed terrorists in the nation, The Post said.

Secretary of State John Kerry condemned the court’s action, saying the verdicts “fly in the face of the essential role of civil society, a free press, and the real rule of law.”

“Today’s conviction and chilling, draconian sentences … is a deeply disturbing setback to Egypt’s transition. Injustices like these simply cannot stand if Egypt is to move forward in the way that President al-Sisi and Foreign Minister Shoukry told me just yesterday that they aspire to see their country advance,” Mr. Kerry said in a statement.

While all three journalists were sentenced to seven years in a maximum security prison, Mohammed received an additional three years behind bars for possession of ammunition.

He was in possession of a spent bullet casing he had found on the ground during a protest, according to Al-Jazeera.

“The United States strongly condemns the verdicts rendered against three Al-Jazeera journalists and 15 other defendants today in Egypt. The prosecution of journalists for reporting information that does not coincide with the government of Egypt’s narrative flouts the most basic standards of media freedom and represents a blow to democratic progress in Egypt,” White House press secretary Josh Earnest said.

“Democracy is about more than elections. True democracy requires thriving democratic institutions, including a vibrant free press,” Mr. Earnest said.

Al Anstey, managing director of Al-Jazeera English, said the sentences defied “logic, sense, and any semblance of justice.”

“Today three colleagues and friends were sentenced, and will continue to be kept behind bars for doing a brilliant job of being great journalists. ‘Guilty’ of covering stories with great skill and integrity. ‘Guilty’ of defending people’s right to know what is going on in their world,” Mr. Anstey said in a statement.

Ben Wolfgang contributed to this article.

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