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The Egyptian Government on why it jailed Greste

Egypt’s Office of the Public Prosecutor has provided foreign journalists with translations of two statements about the verdict of the Peter Greste case, which has seen 18 journalists and other defendants jailed for broadcasting material deemed to have “defamed Egypt”. The full statements are below.

Unofficial translation of statement issued by the Egyptian Ministry of Foreign Affairs

With regard to the verdict issued today June 23rd by the Giza Criminal Court in the case of the foreign correspondents from the Qatari Al-Jazeera network, known in the media as the case of the “Marriott Cell”, and the foreign reactions concerning the verdict, Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry has instructed Egyptian embassies abroad to hold meetings with foreign affairs officials as soon as possible in the countries of accreditation, to present the statement issued by the Office of the Public Prosecutor concerning this case.

In this vein, the statement of the Public Prosecutor’s Office regarding the case explains the intricacies of the case and the orders of the Public Prosecutor’s office to refer the defendants to trial, as well as the charges leveled against both the Egyptian and foreign defendants. The Egyptian judiciary enjoys full independence, and the new constitution provides safeguards to ensure media freedom and to guarantee due process in judicial proceedings. One of the essential principles of any democratic system is the separation of powers, and refraining from commenting on judicial verdicts. The defendants in this case were arrested in accordance with warrants issued by the relevant investigative body, the Office of the Public Prosecutor; due process was adhered to with all of the defendants, and they still have the right to appeal the verdict before the relevant court. All of the defendants were tried before normal courts and normal judges in accordance with the Egyptian penal code.

Regarding the summoning of some Ambassadors abroad to comment on the verdict, it is considered an opportunity to present the statement issued by the Office of the Public Prosecutor to avoid any inaccuracies or false conclusions that could undermine the independence of the judiciary. It also represents an opportunity to emphasize the complete rejection of any foreign interference in the country’s internal affairs.

In response to allegations that Egypt places restrictions on the work of foreign media in the country, it is important to note that more than 1,200 accredited correspondents representing more than 290 foreign media outlets are currently operating freely in Egypt, including news agencies, newspapers, television stations, and radio stations. They are covering events in Egypt with no restrictions, as long as they do so within the framework of the laws of the country.

Unofficial translation of the statement issued by the Egyptian Office of the Public Prosecutor.

The Public Prosecutor had referred 20 defendants, including four foreigners (an Australian citizen, a Dutch citizen, and two British citizens) to trial before a criminal court. The Egyptian defendants were charged with joining a terrorist group which aims to obstruct the law and prevent state institutions from carrying out their work, in addition to transgressing against the personal freedoms of citizens, harming national unity and the security of the society, and utilizing terrorist methods to achieve its goals. The foreign defendants were charged with participating with the Egyptian defendants in these crimes by scheming with them as well as assisting them by providing them with funds, information, and equipment, with full knowledge of the intentions of this group. The foreign defendants were also charged with possession of printouts and recordings which propagate for the intentions of the terrorist group, to be shown to others and presented before the public in Egypt and abroad, with the aim of giving the impression to foreign public opinion that Egypt is undergoing a civil war, in order to weaken the state and its standing, harm the national interests of the country, agitate public security, spread terror among the people, and damage public interests. The foreign defendants were also charged with possession of unlicensed communication, recording, broadcasting, and transmission equipment; investigations revealed that they had been utilizing two wings in a luxurious Cairo hotel as an advanced media center, to gather media materials, manipulate them, and produce fabricated scenes of events in Egypt and broadcast them via the Qatari Al Jazeera channel, in order to assist the terrorist Brotherhood group in achieving its aims.

The criminal court looked into the case over several consecutive sessions and heard the arguments of the public prosecutor and the defense, as well as the testimony of witnesses from both sides. The criminal court then issued a verdict on the 23rd of June 2014, sentencing eleven of the defendants, including a Dutch citizen and two British citizens, to ten years in prison each, while another seven defendants, including the Australian journalist, were handed seven year prison sentences. Another defendant received an additional three year prison sentence for the crime of possession of a round of ammunition. They were also fined five thousand Egyptian pounds, and the equipment and filmed footage that were found in their possession were confiscated. Two defendants were cleared of all charges.

 

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