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Al Jazeera: Journalists Guilty Verdict Defied Logic & Common Sense

An Egyptian court has found three Al Jazeera journalists guilty of supporting the banned Muslim Brotherhood and has sentenced them to three years in prison.

The Cairo court announced the verdicts and the sentences of the retrial Saturday.

“Today’s verdict defied logic and common sense,” said Mostefa Souag, Al Jazeera’s media network’s acting director, in a statement.

Judge Hassan Farid, in handing down the sentences, said the journalists had equipment that had not been approved by Egyptian security officials. The judge said the men were spreading “false news” and had used their hotel as a broadcasting center without permission.

A verdict was originally expected earlier this month, but the court repeatedly delayed the proceedings since Canadian national Mohamed Fahmy, Egyptian Baher Mohamed and Australian Peter Greste were arrested in December 2013.

“This is unjust … It cannot be allowed to stand … We are not terrorists,” said Greste, who appeared on Al Jazeera from Australia shortly after the verdicts were announced. Greste was freed in February.

The verdict “sends a message that journalists can be locked up for simply doing their job, for telling the truth and reporting the news,” said Amal Clooney, who represented Fahmy. “And it sends a dangerous message that there are judges in Egypt who will allow their courts to become instruments of political repression and propaganda.”

Souag said the journalists “have been sentenced despite the fact that not a shred of evidence was found to support the extraordinary and false charges against them … It is a dark day for the Egyptian judiciary, rather than defend liberties and a free and fair media they have compromised their independence for political reasons.”

The three men were convicted more than a year ago with a judge sentencing Greste and Fahmy to seven years in prison and Mohamed to 10 years.

An appeals court ruled in January that they should be given a new trial after prosecutors failed to provide sufficient evidence to show they supported the Brotherhood.

While Greste returned to Australia, Mohamed and Fahmy remained free on bail in Egypt.

The Brotherhood has been the subject of a crackdown by the government of President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi since he led the ouster of former Islamist leader President Mohamed Morsi in July 2013. Many of the group’s top leaders, including Morsi, have been arrested and convicted in mass trials.

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