Egypt’s military dictatorship, which has the backing of President Obama and the American political establishment, has condemned six individuals including at least three reporters to death in absentia. The accused have been charged with providing state secrets to the Arab Government of Qatar, which is the home to Al Jazeera which employees two of the journalists.
By Ray Hanania
Egypt’s military government orders six put to death, including two journalists working for Al Jazeera. An Egyptian court on Saturday sentenced six people to death, including two Al Jazeera journalists, who were all accused of leaking state secrets to Qatar and supporting the Muslim Brotherhood.
The Muslim Brotherhood was declared a terrorist organization by both Egypt and the United States. All of the accused were sentenced to death in absentia and are out of the country.
Obama has backed the military general who took control of Egypt in a military coup in July 2013, Abdel Fatah el-Sisi (al-Sisi), who then declared himself president by orchestrating an election in which his opponents were arrested or murdered. And Obama and the US Congress continue to funnel money into el-Sisi’s dictatorship as a part of a larger strategy to undermine freedom and Democracy in the Middle East.
Egypt has also condemned its former Democratically elected president Mohammed Morsi who was overthrown with the support of U.S. President Barack Obama and leaders of the U.S. Congress.
Morsi was also accused of “spying” for Qatar, which is the home base of the international Arab satellite TV and online news operation, Al Jazeera.
Also tried in absentia, is Jordanian citizen Alaa Omar Mohamed Sablan, who was identified by the prosecution as an Al Jazeera journalist.
Egypt also condemned to death Asmaa Mohamed al-Khatib, who was identified as a reporter with the Rassd news outlet, which Egypt asserts is allied to the Muslim Brotherhood which Morsi once headed. al-Khatib was also sentenced to death in absentia.
The defendants have the right to appeal the death sentence verdicts. Morsi has already been sentenced to life and 20 years in prison in three separate trials.
Here is the statement released by Al-Jazeera:
The Egyptian Criminal Court sentenced our colleagues Ibrahim Helal, former director of news at Al Jazeera’s Arabic channel and Alaa Sablan, identified by the prosecution as an Al Jazeera journalist, to death on Saturday June 18, 2016.
The two journalists were falsely accused of wrongdoing under what is known as “The Espionage Case”, together with the deposed former president Mohamed Morsi, and a number of media professionals.
Al Jazeera Media Network denounces, condemns, and entirely rejects the verdict. Al Jazeera believes this is an unjust and politicized sentence that is a part of the ruthless campaign against freedom of speech and expression, in order to muzzle the voice of free press. Al Jazeera finds the sentence incriminating to the profession of journalism which all international laws and legislation seek to protect, and to all journalists who should be enabled to report with objectivity, professionalism, and integrity.
In his comments on the sentence, Dr. Mostefa Souag, Acting Director General of Al Jazeera Media Network said: “The sentence issued by the Egyptian Criminal court today is considered an entire failure for the justice and court system in Egypt; a country classified as one of the most dangerous places for journalists to work in. This sentence is only one of many politicized sentences that target Al Jazeera and its employees. They are illogical convictions and legally baseless. Al Jazeera strongly denounces targeting its journalists and stands by the other journalists who have also been sentenced.”
Dr. Souag pointed out that all the sentences issued and all the legal cases presented to Egyptian courts against Al Jazeera’s journalists since deposing the former president Mohamed Morsi are legally baseless, and that all the trials were conducted in an environment that lacked accuracy and integrity. He affirmed that all allegations against Ibrhaim Helal are totally false and that the only thing such allegations prove is that the Egyptian judiciary system is no longer independent but rather a follower to the executive authorities who dictate all its decisions.
Dr. Souag confirmed that Al Jazeera is and will be standing by Ibrahim Helal and Alaa Sablan like it did with all its journalists who were subjected to similar circumstances; and it will not deviate from its editorial policy or code of ethics.
Al Jazeera calls upon the international community- in general- and upon international and humanitarian organizations in particular to show solidarity with the journalists who received unjust sentences that outrageously oppose all international and regional laws and conventions that clearly support the protection of journalists and incriminate all forms of assault against them.
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(Editor’s note: The author Ray Hanania writes freelance feature and news analysis articles for Al Jazeera’s online English language news site, Al Jazeera English. Hanania, the former national president of the National American Arab Journalists Association and an award winning veteran Palestinian American political reporter also condemned Egypt’s actions as a continued violation of basic human and civil rights which are fundamentals of democracy. “Egypt is not a Democracy, it is a tyranny and modernday dictatorship that is backed by the United States and Western interests that continue to discriminate against freedom and justice in the Middle East, Palestine and the Arab World.)