The retrial of Al Jazeera journalists Mohamed Fahmy, Peter Greste and Baher Mohamed has been postponed for the second time, with the verdict now expected on 29 August.
The Cairo Criminal Court was initially scheduled to issue its verdict on 30 July, but the judge’s ill health delayed the trial session. Even with a replacement judge, the case has yet to be concluded. No other defendants, except for the two journalists (Fahmy and Mohamed) and a student, were present in court.
The court said security reasons were behind not bringing the rest of the defendants to the court. The same applied to other trial cases scheduled for Sunday.
In a room filled with local and foreign media, as well as the Canadian and Dutch ambassadors to Cairo, reactions were limited. Outside court, however, Mohamed commented on the new decision by expressing his disappointment.
“I think that our lives have been insulted once more by the judiciary because the delay means another month in our pending lives, having to sign in everyday at the police station, being unable to have a job or move outside Cairo,” Mohamed told journalists Sunday.
He further noted that all trials of the day and in the recent period have been postponed in the same manner, suggesting there could be an intentional postponement of verdicts ahead of the expected inauguration of the Suez Canal axis, the new project Egypt hopes to present to the world on 6 August.
“Maybe this is in order to avoid any controversies ahead of the big day, but I am afraid this could mean that we received the verdict,” Mohamed added, clarifying that he had no expectations whatsoever regarding the ruling.
Giles Trendle, Al Jazeera English’s Acting Managing Director, has called the ordeal “very frustrating”, in press statements Sunday after the session. He referred to the long trial as one with “ludicrous groundless charges, strange decisions, and where evidence was contradictory and flawed”.
“Our focus is to get justice done, including [for] six other Al Jazeera members sentenced in absentia,” Trendle said in further comments to Daily News Egypt. “It is difficult to know what to make of this new delay, we are following news with everybody and our legal representatives in Cairo, we are waiting for the verdict.”
Trendle would not speak of the network’s current status and work in Egypt, and also refused to comment on Fahmy’s legal suit against the network and demands of compensation. Trendle confirmed that Al Jazeera continues to support the three journalists.
“I do not want to go back again,” were Mohamed’s final words ahead of the verdict, after over a year on trial. Fahmy swore on Thursday that the battle will continue, saying he would appeal again if the journalists are sentenced or given a suspended sentence.
Fahmy and Greste were previously sentenced to seven years imprisonment, accused of spreading lies against the Egyptian regime by broadcasting inciting and fabricated media content through the Qatari network. Mohamed, who also faced the same charges, was given an additional three years for an additional charge of “the possession of weapons”, and will face 10 years in prison if the verdict is upheld.
According to state-run news agency MENA, there were four other defendants in the case, including recently arrested artist Noura El-Banna, who had previously been sentenced to 10 years in absentia.
Nonetheless, El-Banna said she had voluntarily turned herself in, and should have been tried by the same judge who previously sentenced her, Nagy Shehata, rather than the current re-trial judge.
At least 11 were sentenced last June to 10 years imprisonment, including five Al Jazeera staff and other foreign reporters, while two were acquitted, state media reported.
Students accused of having joined the Muslim Brotherhood were also given prison sentences alongside Greste and Fahmy.