Causing uproar among journalists and human rights groups, the Egyptian court verdict is being massively criticised.
The long winded Qatar espionage case is finally coming to close as six people, including two Al Jazeera employees, have been sentenced to death on Saturday for allegedly passing on documents related to national security during the rule of ex-president Mohammed Morsi, while the latter has been sentenced to life in prison according to the BBC.
Morsi, who was deposed in 2013, was acquitted of espionage but he and two of his aides have been sentenced to 25 years in prison for their membership of the now-banned Muslim Brotherhood which is considered a terrorist organisation by the Egyptian government.
Two of the Al Jazeera journalists, Alaa Omar Mohammed Sablan and Ibrahim Mohammed Helal, were sentenced to death in absentia along with Asma a-Khateib, a reporter for Rassd which is a different media network suspected of links with the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood.
Although all the rulings can still be appealed, the verdicts have inspired angry criticism from international organisations such as Amnesty International, as well as Al Jazeera who has called on the international community to support the journalists.
“This sentence is only one of many politicised sentences that target Al Jazeera and its employees,” said the network’s acting director, Mostefa Souag according to The Guardian, adding that, “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.”
Under standard procedure in cases of capital punishment in Egypt, Judge Mohammed Shirin Fahmy’s recommendation for the death sentence went to the office of Egypt’s Grand Mufti, Egypt’s top Muslim theological authority, for endorsement which is a must according to Egyptian law.
“They are more dangerous than spies, because spies are usually foreigners, but these are, regrettably, Egyptians who betrayed the trust,” the judge said according to the Guardian. “No ideology can ever justify the betrayal of one’s country.”
This isn’t the first case with Al Jazeera that has gained attention. Last year, three Al Jazeera journalists, Mohamed Fahmy, Baher Mohamed and Peter Greste, were freed after more than a year spent behind bars for charges of supporting to the Muslim Brotherhood and tarnishing Egypt’s image in the media.
According to Reporters Without Borders, Egypt is one of the worst countries for press freedom, ranking 158 out of 180 countries in the 2015 Press Freedom Index. Sharing a reputation for being a draconian jailer of journalists right after China and before Turkey.