An Egyptian court sentenced three Al Jazeera journalists to three-year prison terms in a decision that spurred immediate global condemnation. Baber Mohamed and Mohamed Fahmy were sentenced after a retrial found them guilty of "falsified news." Australian Peter Greste was sentenced in absentia.
The three journalists were first tried and sentenced in July 2014 for being members of the banned Muslim Brotherhood. All three journalists and Al Jazeera vehemently denied the accusations throughout the course of the trial. Greste and Fahmy received sentences of seven years, while Mohamed was sentenced to 10 years in prison.
The sentences were all overturned earlier this year and a retrial ordered. In February, the men were freed to await retrial. Greste was also deported to Australia.
Marwa Fahmy, wife of journalist Mohamed Fahmy, burst into tears when the verdict was announced in the new trial this week.
Baber uploaded this last tweet before going to jail.
Keep shouting for us my colleagues I'm sorry. from now on will not be able to keep in touch with you #FreeAJStaff— Baher Mohamed (@Bahrooz) August 29, 2015
Greste also conveyed that he was devastated by the decision.
This time, the journalists were found guilty of operating without permits, making falsified videos and uploading them on an Al Jazeera channel that is not authorized to work in Egypt. Mohamed was given an additional six months for possessing a used bullet casing.
The lawyer for the three journalists, Amal Clooney, said that there was not a single piece of evidence to sustain these allegations. She added that this ruling has "sent a dangerous message throughout Egypt."
Criticism has poured in from all quarters. Spokesman for the UN high commissioner for human rights, Prince Zeid bin Raad, said, "We are very disturbed by these three sentences and the extra pressure it creates on journalists in Egypt who are just trying to do their jobs." European Union authorities called the verdict "a setback for freedom of speech in Egypt."
Ban Ki-moon expressed his disappointment at the verdict.
The International Press Institute and U.S. Department of State have also decried the verdict.
The U.S. is deeply disappointed & concerned by the Egyptian court verdict handed down to three Al-Jazeera journalists http://t.co/SjEkyRyLv3— Department of State (@StateDept) August 29, 2015
This is not the first time that the Sissi government has expressed its disapproval of freedom of speech. President Sissi earlier signed an "anti-terrorism" bill, which many say takes a broad and redundant definition of terrorists. The bill was obviously meant to enforce rigid uniformity, as journalists were liable to pay up to $64,000 for deviating from the government's narrative.