International human rights lawyer and representative of Mohamed Fahmy, Amal Clooney, gave an interview late Saturday evening condemning the recent verdict in the Al Jazeera case and called on President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi to pardon the accused journalists.
The Cairo Criminal Court sentenced three Al Jazeera journalists, Baher Mohamed, Mohamed Fahmy and Peter Greste to three years in prison each on charges of spreading false information, along with three students who did not work for Al Jazeera.
In an interview she gave immediately following the trial, and in a later interview on Saturday evening, Clooney called on Sisi to grant amnesty to the Al Jazeera journalists Mohamed Fahmy, Baher Mohamed and Peter Greste.
She went on to say, “Unfortunately the prosecution’s position was absurd in the retrial, just as absurd as it was in the original trial and yet we saw another conviction and that’s deeply disappointing and something that President Sisi can intervene to correct.”
She cited the fact that the prosecution claimed the fact the journalists used the common editing tool “Final Cut Pro” was evidence of the intent to undermine national security as evidence of the verdict’s illegitimacy.
In the first trial the court repeatedly screened video evidence that was seen by many to be irrelevant, including pop songs and Al Jazeera documentaries on farming.
Clooney pointed out that the other evidence in the trial was that the journalists did not have permits for three of their mobile devices. However, she explained that even if that was true, the permits would be the responsibility of their employer, and not having a license for them was at most an administrative offense.
Clooney also stated that part of the reason why the trial was adjourned for so long was so an expert committee could examine videos produced by Al Jazeera to see if there had been any tampering. The committee concluded that there had been no tampering in any of the videos, which according to Clooney is key to the criminal charge.
She explained that under Egyptian law, false news is legally defined by four elements: “Yhe news is false, the journalists knew of the falsity of the news, they had the intent to broadcast and, in doing so, there was an intent to undermine national security.”
Clooney also expressed her hope that Sisi would pardon the journalists in the case, explaining that Sisi “said when the judicial process is complete, he can’t interfere while it’s ongoing, but when it’s complete, I can exercise my power to pardon these journalists. He said in one interview at least that I’ve seen that he would do that. What we’re very much hoping that the president will now step in, in the way that he himself indicated he would. Today we saw the end of the completion of the judicial process, so I think it’s time for the presidency to put an end to this fiasco.”
The conviction of the Al Jazeera journalists sparked international outrage with international NGOs and governmental figures calling the sentence a violation of press freedom.