PEN Canada condemns resentencing of Al-Jazeera journalists

TORONTO, Sept. 1, 2015 /CNW/ - PEN Canada condemns the conviction and resentencing of Al-Jazeera journalists Mohamed Fahmy, Peter Greste and Baher Mohamed following their retrial on trumped-up terrorism charges first laid in December 2013.

"This regrettable verdict underscores Egypt's prominence on a growing list of countries that use specious national security arguments to silence independent journalism," said PEN Canada Writers in Prison Chair Jim Creskey. "With up to sixty other journalists currently in its prisons, Egypt cannot complain when a foreign ambassador correctly points out that sham trials like this 'undermine confidence in the basis of Egypt's stability' — unless it is willing to enact reforms that ensure press freedom and fair trials."

PEN is encouraged that Canada's ambassador to Egypt, Troy Lulashnyk, has already filed a formal request for Mr. Fahmy's pardon, and it encourages the government of Canada to continue its engagement  with the Egyptian authorities, at the highest levels, so that Mr. Fahmy can be either pardoned or deported so that he can rejoin his family in Canada. Mr. Fahmy, a Canadian citizen, recently renounced his Egyptian citizenship. Fahmy's colleague Peter Greste, an Australian, was deported earlier in February and re-tried in absentia.

Mr. Fahmy's lawyer, Amal Clooney, has voiced concerns for his safety in prison as he has been a "very outspoken critic" of the Muslim Brotherhood. Since Mr. Fahmy requires medical treatment for hepatitis C and a shoulder injury, PEN urges the Egyptian authorities to take all necessary measures to ensure his health and safety.

Fahmy, Greste, and Mohamed worked for the English-language division of Al Jazeera. They were charged with conspiring with the Muslim Brotherhood to broadcast false news that would destabilize Egypt. Neither at the original trial, nor at retrial, did prosecutors present any credible evidence of such collaboration.

On Saturday the journalists were resentenced to at least three years in prison. Fahmy and Mohamed, who had been released on bail, have been taken back into custody. In his ruling, Judge Hassan Farid claimed that neither Fahmy nor Mohamed merited the legal protections extended to journalists since neither had been formally authorized by the Egyptian government to practice journalism.

PEN Canada is a nonpartisan organization of writers that works with others to defend freedom of expression as a basic human right at home and abroad. PEN Canada promotes literature, fights censorship, helps free persecuted writers from prison, and assists writers living in exile in Canada. www.pencanada.ca

SOURCE PEN Canada

For further information: Brendan de Caires, PEN Canada, bdecaires@pencanada.ca, 416-703-8448 ext. 21

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