| CAIRO, June 23
CAIRO, June 23 An Egyptian court will rule on
Monday in the case of three Al Jazeera journalists on trial for
aiding members of a "terrorist organisation" in a case that has
raised questions over Egypt's respect for freedoms of
The hearing began on Monday morning.
Australian Peter Greste, Al Jazeera's Kenya-based
correspondent, and Canadian-Egyptian national Mohamed Fahmy,
bureau chief of Al Jazeera English in Egypt were detained on
Dec. 29 at the Marriott hotel room where they were working.
Baher Mohamed, an Egyptian producer was detained at his home
a day later. All three have been held at Egypt's notorious Tora
Prison for six months, in a case that has drawn criticism from
Western governments and human rights groups.
The journalists are accused of publishing lies that harmed
the national interest and supplying money, equipment and
information to 16 Egyptians. The foreigners were also accused of
using unlicensed broadcasting and communications equipment.
The 16 Egyptians are to face trial for belonging to a
"terrorist organisation", an apparent reference to the Muslim
Brotherhood, which has been protesting against the government
since the army toppled Islamist president Mohamed Mursi in July.
Fahmy's brother Adel, who was at the hearing, said this was
"the perfect chance" for the new Egyptian authorities to show
their respect for freedom of expression with an acquittal.
"It's an opportunity for Egypt to prove to the international
community that they encourage and welcome freedom of expression
in this new era," he said. "There's no evidence against them.
After 12 hearings there is nothing to condemn them with."
Al Jazeera's Cairo offices have been closed since July 3
when security forces raided them hours after the army ousted
Mursi following mass protests against his rule.
Western governments have voiced concern over freedom of
expression and press freedom in Egypt since Mursi's ouster and
the crackdown has raised questions about Egypt's democratic
credentials three years after an uprising toppled Hosni Mubarak
after 30 years in power and raised hopes of greater freedoms.
The ruling was due a day after U.S. Secretary of State John
Kerry met newly elected Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi
in Cairo and discussed the political transition the country.
(Writing by Lin Noueihed; Editing by Tom Heneghan)