‘Al-Jazeera 3’ court verdict put on hold

Baher Mohammed and Mohammed Fahmy face the media outside court yesterday. Picture: Getty
Baher Mohammed and Mohammed Fahmy face the media outside court yesterday. Picture: Getty
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A CAIRO court has postponed the final verdict in the retrial of three reporters for the al-Jazeera English television channel until next week.

The move came because the judge in the case, Hassan Farid, was ill, judicial officials said.

They added that the new date for the verdict, on Sunday, would also probably have to be pushed back because the judge’s illness was serious.

The three al-Jazeera staff – Australian journalist Peter Greste, Egyptian producer Baher Mohammed and Canadian national Mohammed Fahmy, who was the TV channel’s Cairo acting bureau chief – were detained in December 2013.

Fahmy and Mohammed both expressed their disappointment over the postponement when they came out of the court building and talked to reporters yesterday.

“It’s really disappointing what happened today – we were expecting a verdict,” Mohammed said.

A visibly frustrated Fahmy said: “We should have been informed, or my lawyer should have been informed officially that there is an adjournment or delay.”

The al-Jazeera trio were originally sentenced to up to ten years in prison each, before Egypt’s highest court ordered the retrial on charges of being part of the Muslim Brotherhood, which authorities have declared a terrorist organisation, and airing falsified footage intended to damage national security.

Greste was released and deported in February. Fahmy and Mohammed were later released on bail.

Following yesterday’s adjournment, Dr Mostefa Souag, al-Jazeera Media Network’s acting director general, said: “We are outraged that the verdict has been adjourned, as today was meant to be the final court hearing for our colleagues.

“We, along with others, expected a swift end to the ordeal for Baher Mohammed, Mohammed Fahmy and Peter Greste.”

Dr Souag went on: “All three men have been under immense stress and pressure for the past 19 months and delaying the final verdict has just continued the strain on them and their families.

“We demand the Egyptian authorities bring an end to the charges against Baher, Peter and Mohammed, which should be dropped immediately. Journalism is not a crime.”

Although Greste has already been deported to his native Australia under a law allowing the transfer of foreigners on trial to their home countries, he is still being retried in absentia.

“It is really difficult for us, we all thought this was going to be the day,” he said from Sydney yesterday.

“We have seen so many unexpected twists and turns in this trial.

“The only thing that any of us is concerned about is this verdict. It is the thing that will define our lives. We cannot make any plans or even think of travelling.”

Fahmy and Mohammed had been on bail ahead of the retrial after spending more than 400 days in detention.

Fahmy renounced his Egyptian nationality, hoping he would be deported like Greste.

The three men have received support from governments, media organisations and rights groups from around the world.

The European People’s Party issued a letter of support earlier this month signed by members of the European Parliament from across the political spectrum and from a variety of countries.