Australian correspondent Peter Greste, Canadian-Egyptian acting Cairo bureau chief Mohammed Fahmy and Egyptian producer Baher Mohammed, were arrested in December as part of a sweeping crackdown on Islamist supporters of ousted President Mohammed Morsi.
An Egyptian court has convicted three journalists for Al-Jazeera and sentenced them to seven years in prison each on terrorism-related charges.
A court in Cairo convicted Peter Greste, Mohammed Fahmy and Baher Mohamed of spreading false news and supporting the banned Islamist group. The trio had denied the charges.
Three other foreign journalists tried in absentia received 10-year sentences.
The trial has caused an international outcry amid claims it is politicised.
Ahead of the verdict, Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott said he told Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi that Peter Greste was simply reporting on events and not promoting the Brotherhood.
"I did make the point that as an Australian journalist, Peter Greste, would not have been supporting the Muslim Brotherhood, he would have simply been reporting on the Muslim Brotherhood and the point I made was that in the long run, a free and vigorous media are good for democracy, good for security, good for stability,” said Abbott.
Greste and his two colleagues were arrested in December at a Cairo hotel where they were working after Egyptian authorities closed the Qatar-based television network\’s bureau.
The three al-Jazeera journalists have been detained in Egypt for the past six months.
The case, and cases against other journalists, have sparked an international outcry, including from press freedom groups who have urged authorities to release any detained journalists and allow for free expression.
Last week, Egypt freed another Al-Jazeera journalist who spent 10 months in prison without being charged. Prosecutors ordered the release of Abdullah Elshamy for health reasons after a hunger strike that he began in January to protest his detention.
Egyptian authorities have carried out a crackdown on the Brotherhood since Sissi, then the army chief, led the ouster of president Mohamed Morsi last July. Since then, Egypt has drafted a new constitution and voted Sissi into office, and plans to hold parliamentary elections later this year.
Source – Agencies