An Egyptian court has sentenced three journalists to between seven and 10 years in prison.
Among them is Mohamed Fahmy, a dual citizen of Canada and Egypt. The others are Peter Greste of Australia and Baher Mohamed of Egypt.
The three journalists were arrested in December 2013 while reporting for Al Jazeera English, a global news network based out of Qatar.
Egyptian authorities charged the men with a number of terrorism-related crimes, including reporting false news damaging to Egypt's national security, and aiding the Muslim Brotherhood, which an interim government had listed as a terrorist organization shortly before the arrests.
Fahmy, Greste, and Mohamed, as well Al Jazeera editors in Qatar, vehemently deny all charges for which the three men stood accused. They maintain the reporters were in Egypt simply conducting their work as journalists.
Canada’s Department of Foreign Affairs issued a statement today (June 23) attributed to Minister of State Lynne Yelich that condemns the Egyptian court’s decision.
“Canada is very disappointed with the verdict in the case of Mohamed Fahmy and is concerned that the judicial process that led to his verdict is inconsistent with Egypt’s democratic aspirations,” it reads. “Canada calls on the Egyptian government to protect the rights of all individuals, including journalists, in keeping with the spirit of Egypt’s new constitution and the desire of all Egyptians to build a fully democratic country.”
The statement adds that Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird has taken the Canadian government’s concerns for Fahmy’s detention to senior Egyptian authorities and will continue to provide consular assistance for his case.
Fahmy's family has been critical of the Canadian government's response to Fahmy's arrest and continued detention.
A Twitter account maintained by Fahmy's brother today sent out this message: "@pmharper [Prime Minister Stephen Harper] I hold you responsible for leaving my brother to rotten in Egyptian prison. Was a call or a public statement that difficult?"
A report at Al Jazeera’s website notes that evidence delivered by the prosecution included a BBC podcast, news reports produced on dates when none of the three men charged were in Egypt, and a music video by an Australian pop singer.
Al Jazeera English managing director Al Anstey is quoted there describing the Egyptian state’s accusations against the men as “absurd”.
“Today three colleagues and friends were sentenced, and will continue to be kept behind bars for doing a brilliant job of being great journalists,” Anstey said.
“Peter, Mohamed, and Baher and six of our other colleagues were sentenced despite the fact that not a shred of evidence was found to support the extraordinary and false charges against them," he continued. "At no point during the long drawn out 'trial' did the absurd allegations stand up to scrutiny.”
Al Jazeera has called for the verdicts to be overturned.