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Al Jazeera says Egypt has extended detention of 3 of its journalists

By Laura King

11:31 AM PST, January 9, 2014

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CAIRO -- Qatar-based broadcaster Al Jazeera said Thursday that three of its journalists, detained by Egyptian authorities on Dec. 29, had been remanded to an additional 15 days in custody.

The three, two of whom hold foreign passports, have been accused of harming Egypt’s state security and having links with the Muslim Brotherhood. All work for Al Jazeera’s English-language service.

The broadcaster, in statements posted on its website, has denied any wrongdoing on the journalists’ part and demanded their release.

The Brotherhood, the Islamist movement from which deposed Islamist president Mohamed Morsi hails, was branded a terrorist organization on Dec. 25 by the interim military-backed government. The move gives Egyptian authorities even greater scope to move against the organization.

The detained journalists have been identified by Al Jazeera as correspondent Peter Greste, an Australian; Cairo bureau chief Mohamed Fahmy, a Canadian Egyptian; and producer Baher Mohamed. A cameraman arrested within a few hours of their detention has been released.

Al Jazeera, which has had frequent run-ins with the Egyptian authorities since Morsi was ousted more than six months ago, has also demanded the release of two more of its journalists from an Egyptian branch of the channel. They have been held for more than five months.

One of those two was to have received a court verdict on Thursday, but his case was postponed until February, Al Jazeera said.

Egypt has carried out a wide-ranging campaign against the Muslim Brotherhood since July, when Morsi was ousted in a popularly supported coup. The group’s leadership and thousands of rank-and-file members of the group have been jailed. Hundreds more have died in confrontations with security forces.

At the same time, the government has been ridiculed for extreme steps such as investigating whether a popular Muppet-style character who appears frequently on Egyptian television was used to convey coded messages about a terror plot.

Morsi is on trial on a number of charges, several of which carry the death penalty. He was to have appeared in court on Wednesday, but those proceedings were adjourned until February after authorities claimed that bad weather precluded his helicopter flight from a prison near the Mediterranean port city of Alexandria to the capital.

Morsi’s supporters suggested that the government was reluctant to give him the platform of a court appearance only days before a nationwide vote, scheduled for next Tuesday and Wednesday, on a rewritten version of Egypt’s constitution.

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Twitter: @laurakingLAT

laura.king@latimes.com