Sunday, October 24, 2021

    Al-Jazeera trial judge calls defendants out of cage

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    Babatunde Akinsola
    Babatunde Akinsola is aNaija247news' Southwest editor. He's based in Lagos and writes on the Yoruba Nation political issues, news and investigative reports

    In an unusual move, the judge trying the three Al-Jazeera journalists on terror charges in Egypt called them out of the defendant’s cage on Monday to hear individual requests.

    Judge Mohammed Nagui ordered police to bring the three journalists and their five co-defendants in front of the bench on the third session of the trial.

    This has embarrassed Egyptian authorities by drawing international attention to their crackdown on media and the opposition.

    Australian journalist Peter Greste, dressed in a white prison uniform and with a pair of handcuffs dangling from his left wrist, told Nagui.

    “I am a journalist with 30 years’ experience. The idea that I have an association with the Muslim Brotherhood is preposterous.

    “Our only desire at this point is to fight to clear our names outside the prison,’’ Greste, who looked drawn, told Nagui through a translator.

    One of the five students on trial along with the journalists, Shadi Ibrahim, said they were not getting proper medical treatment after alleged beatings during their arrest in December.

    “We thank you because for the first time in three months we’ve been seen by a doctor, but the bruises had gone,’’ Ibrahim said, asking to have X-rays performed.

    “I had teeth fell out because of how much I was beaten,’’ he added.

    A total of 20 defendants in the case are charged with harming Egypt’s national interests by spreading false news and assisting or belonging to a terrorist organisation, but 12 are being tried in absentia.

    Another of the accused, Anas al-Beltagui, son of senior Muslim Brotherhood leader Mohammed al-Beltagui, said he did not know why he was involved in the case.

    “It’s been an emotional roller-coaster,’’ Al-Jazeera International’s Cairo bureau chief Mohammed Fahmi told journalists after Nagui called a recess to discuss the defendants’ requests.

    “It’s inconceivable that after three months we are yet to see the video that’s the basis of the case against us,’’ he added.

    Amid considerable international attention for the case, Egypt’s interim president Adly Mansour, wrote to the families of Greste and Fahmy earlier this month.

    He promised to “spare no effort to work toward the speedy resolution of the case.’’ (dpa/NAN)

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