Al-Jazeera journalists charged with terrorism appear in Cairo court

Three Al-Jazeera journalists, including one Egyptian-Canadian, charged with terrorism-related offences, appeared in a makeshift court at a prison on the outskirts of Cairo Wednesday.
Al-Jazeera English Egypt bureau chief Mohamed Fahmy, an Egyptian-Canadian national, left, producer Baher Mohamed, second left, and correspondent Peter Greste, centre, stand inside the defendants' cages in a courtroom in Tora prison on the outskirts of Cairo. The three have been accused of aiding the Muslim Brotherhood, which Egypt's new government has labelled a terrorist organization. (Mohammed Abu Zaid/Associated Press)

Three Al-Jazeera journalists, including one Egyptian-Canadian, charged with terrorism-related offences, appeared in a makeshift court at a prison on the outskirts of Cairo Wednesday.

Mohamed Fahmy, a Canadian-Egyptian national who heads the Egypt bureau for Al-Jazeera English; Australian Peter Greste, a correspondent for the Qatar-based network; and Baher Mohamed, an Egyptian producer, are accused of working without accreditation and of assisting the Muslim Brotherhood, which Egypt has labelled a terrorist organization.

The three were arrested Dec. 29 and first appeared in the court set up at the Police Institute in Tora prison on Feb. 20. They have insisted they are not guilty of the charges against them.

Reuters news agency reports there was heavy security outside the prison on Wednesday.

The lawyer for Al-Jazeera, Mukhlis al-Salhi, told Reuters he expected Wednesday's session to be procedural, with lawyers laying out their cases and what witnesses are expected to be called.

Canadian injured, asks to be released 

Agence France Presse reports that Fahmy told the court Wednesday his right shoulder "has been broken for 10 weeks," and that he has been sleeping on the floor of his jail cell.

"I ask you to free me on the guarantee from the Canadian Embassy that I will not leave the country," AFP reported the Egyptian-Canadian as saying.

Journalists from the Foreign Correspondents Association protest against Egypt's detention of the Al-Jazeera journalists in Kenya's capital Nairobi on Feb. 27. (Thomas Mukoya/Reuters)

Greste's brother, Andrew, told Reuters outside the prison Wednesday that his brother is coping relatively well and expressed hope he would be released.

"Every time I come to court, I'm hopeful, but I guess anything's possible and given I don't understand the system and I don't think I ever will, I really, always got expectations, but they're moderated by the possibility that, you know, this thing sort of, continues," he said.

Six other Al-Jazeera journalists are also being tried in absentia. The news organization, which is currently not allowed to work in Egypt, has denied the charges against its staff.

Media organizations from around the world, including The Associated Press, have called on Egyptian authorities to release the journalists and have held vigils of support.

Prosecutors say accused spread false information

Egypt accuses the journalists of supplying money, equipment and information to 16 Egyptians who authorities say belong to the Muslim Brotherhood.

​Those 16 individuals have also been charged with belonging to a terrorist organization and disrupting national unity and "social peace."

Prosecutors have alleged that the Egyptians and foreigners established a media network and used two suites in a luxurious hotel in Cairo as a media centre from which to broadcast "manipulated pictures" and "unreal scenes to give the impression to the outside world that there is a civil war that threatens to bring down the state."

Ever since Egypt's military deposed President Mohammed Morsi, a leader in the Muslim Brotherhood, last July, the military-backed interim government has launched a fierce crackdown on the organization, killing hundreds of pro-Morsi protesters and arresting thousands of others.

Fellow Gulf states angry at Qatar's Brotherhood support

Qatar, which funds Al-Jazeera, supports the Brotherhood and has had strained relations with Egypt's new regime, which resigned last week in the face of growing discontent within the country over worsening economic conditions and the security forces' inability to prevent attacks by pro-Morsi militants.

The Gulf state has also faced criticism from other Gulf states over its support for Egypt's Islamists. On Wednesday, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates and Bahrain recalled their ambassadors from Doha, saying that by financially and publicly backing Morsi and members of the Brotherhood, Qatar violated a regional agreement in which Gulf states vowed not to interfere in the Egypt's internal conflict.

UAE and Saudi Arabia, both staunch supporters of Egypt's military-backed government, have cracked down on Brotherhood-affiliated Islamist groups within their own borders, which they see as a threat to their ruling systems.

With files from Reuters, The Associated Press