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Al Jazeera journalists sentenced to jail in Egypt

An Egyptian court has sentenced journalists for the Al Jazeera news network to 7 to 10 years in prison on charges of helping a terrorist organization.

The Qatari news network criticized the de facto coup of the Egyptian military in July last year and reported favorably on the Muslim Brotherhood. Egyptian prosecutors indicted 9 members of Al-Jazeera on charges of supporting a terrorist organization and publishing false information.

The court in Cairo on Monday sentenced an Australian reporter and the Cairo bureau chief, an Egyptian national, to 7 years in jail. An Egyptian producer was sentenced to an additional 3 years on a separate charge involving possession of weapons. The 3 have been detained.

The court also sentenced 6 staff members to 10 years in prison. They were sentenced in absentia. They have not been detained as some have fled the nation.

After the coup, Egyptian authorities designated the Muslim Brotherhood a terrorist organization and have put pressure on media that are critical of the administration and the military.

Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop told reporters that Australia is shocked at the verdict. She said the Australian reporter was in Egypt to report on the political situation there, not to support the Muslim Brotherhood.
Bishop said Australia would hold top level talks with Cairo to see if the Egyptian government could intervene, and work for the release of the journalist.

Human rights organizations are criticizing the court rulings as a serious infringement of the freedom of speech. People are taking on the streets outside Egypt, urging for their releases.

Jun. 23, 2014 - Updated 14:01 UTC