Judge rejects video evidence in Egypt’s Al Jazeera case

Australian journalist Peter Greste, right, and co-defendants stand in front of the judge's bench in Cairo on March 31 during their trial for allegedly supporting a terrorist group and spreading false information.
(Khaled Elfiqi / European Pressphoto Agency)

CAIRO – Video evidence submitted Thursday by Egyptian prosecutors at the trial for Al Jazeera journalists on terrorism-related charges left the defendants and their lawyers baffled and was rejected by the judge.

Australian correspondent Peter Greste, Egyptian Canadian bureau chief Mohamed Fahmy and Egyptian producer Baher Mohamed are accused of “fabricating news” regarding the Muslim Brotherhood, which Egypt has branded a terrorist organization.

The videos proffered as evidence against them included a documentary about Somalia made by Greste for the BBC, a recording of a news conference by a Kenyan official and a report produced by Mohamed’s brother for another network about the effects of Egypt’s political crisis on the tourism trade. The judge deemed the footage irrelevant to the case.

Greste and other defendants, in the caged defendants’ dock, were bemused.


“It is obvious the prosecutors have not even looked at our videos. They haven’t had a shred of evidence for four months,” Greste called to onlookers from inside the cage. Fahmy said the proceedings were a “joke.”

The judge again denied bail for the three, who have been jailed since Dec. 29, and the case was adjourned until April 22.

Greste, Fahmy and Mohamed, who work for Al Jazeera’s English-language service, are among 20 people charged in the case. Egyptian authorities have described all the defendants as working for Al Jazeera, but some, including a Dutch woman who left Egypt before the trial began, have no connection to the Qatar-based broadcaster.

The case has triggered condemnation from human rights groups and media advocacy organizations. Amnesty International this week repeated a call for an end to the journalists’ “vindictive” detention, saying Egyptian authorities were punishing them for Qatar’s policies.

The Gulf emirate angered Egypt’s interim government by calling for the reinstatement of Islamist President Mohamed Morsi, deposed in July in a coup.

Hassan is a special correspondent.