DOHA: Less than half the journalists accused by Egyptian authorities of being part of a “terror cell” involving Qatari-owned broadcaster Al Jazeera actually work for the network, the channel said yesterday.
Prosecutors on January 31 referred to trial 20 journalists allegedly working for Al Jazeera after accusing them of portraying Egypt as being in a state of “civil war” and “airing false news.”
The network has angered new army-installed authorities for its coverage of a crackdown on the Muslim Brotherhood and supporters of Islamist president Mohammed Mursi deposed in July. “The list of people being pursued by authorities in the case involving Al Jazeera English’s detained journalists has finally been officially served,” the network said in a statement.
“Nine network staff are on the list of 20, meaning most of those named are not employees of Al Jazeera,” it said.
“The charges should be dropped, and all of our journalists in prison in Cairo freed immediately,” said Al Jazeera English Managing Director Al Anstey.
The journalists include 16 Egyptians, two of whom in jail since the summer, and four foreigners — Australian Peter Greste, Britons Sue Turton and Dominic Kane, and Dutch Rena Netjes.
Greste is in custody as authorities say the other three are “on the run from the law.”
Netjes fled Egypt on Tuesday and says she could have been implicated over a conversation she had at a hotel lobby in December with Al Jazeera English’s Cairo bureau chief, Canadian-Egyptian Mohamed Adel Fahmy, now in custody.
“I never worked for Al Jazeera, ever,” she wrote on Twitter.
If convicted, the foreigners could face up to seven years in jail and the Egyptians 15. Officials say the defendants were operating without official accreditation.
Greste, Fahmy and Egyptian producer Baher Mohamed were arrested on December 29 in a Cairo hotel. AFP