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Egypt court sets January 1 appeal date for Al Jazeera journalists

Al Jazeera journalists Baher Mohamed,   Peter Greste and Mohammed Fahmy stand behind bars at a court in Cairo

CAIRO (Reuters) – An Egyptian court has set January 1 as the date for an appeals hearing for the three Al Jazeera journalists serving jail time in Egypt, the network said on Tuesday.

The journalists were convicted in July on charges of aiding a terrorist organization in a verdict that was widely condemned internationally.

The three, who all denied the charge of working with the now-banned Muslim Brotherhood, are Australian Peter Greste and Canadian-Egyptian national Mohamed Fahmy, Cairo bureau chief of Al Jazeera English.

Al Jazeera’s Qatari owners back the Muslim Brotherhood, declared a terrorist organization last year. The network has been at odds with Egypt’s leadership since Islamist President Mohamed Mursi was ousted by army chief General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi in July 2013.

Though Egypt at the time rejected the widespread condemnation of the verdict as interference in its internal affairs, Sisi, now president, has since made sympathetic remarks about the imprisoned journalists, saying he wished they had been deported and not put on trial.

He has not, however, suggested at any point that he would use his presidential power to pardon the journalists.

Local and international human rights groups have held up the trial and conviction of the journalists as an example of the “broken” Egyptian judicial system.

Al Jazeera said in a statement on Monday the appeals hearing “will look at the process behind the original trial, a process that Al Jazeera says was flawed, and is the basis of the appeal”.

It also said the network would mark 300 days since the arrest of its journalist on Friday with “300 seconds of silence on-air, accompanied by images of the detainees and the campaign to release them.”

 

 

(Reporting By Maggie Fick; Editing by Angus MacSwan)

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