The Egyptian Public Prosecutor has referred 20 Al-Jazeera journalists to the criminal court for “aiding a terrorist group” and related charges. Four of the defendants are non-Egyptian citizens, including an Australian, a Canadian, a Briton and a Dutch woman; only eight are in custody, while the others remain at large and will be tried in absentia.
The charges include “using unlicensed equipment, dissemination of false news with the aim of disrupting public opinion, and acquisition of misleading footage.”
Official news media reported that the defendants “established a media network led by an Egyptian-Canadian dual citizen who is also a member of the Muslim Brotherhood, specialised in fabricating footage contrary to the truth and broadcasting them on Al-Jazeera Network and CNN, with the purpose of distorting Egypt’s international image.”
The prosecution ordered security officials to arrest the defendants, search their places of residence and seize all equipment found.
Preliminary investigations claim that “one of the defendants used two suites in the Marriot Zamalek hotel as a media centre to compile media material and manipulate it through the equipment he had, to edit and create scenes contrary to reality, to redistribute them via Al-Jazeera and CNN to denigrate Egypt’s image, with the purpose of serving the international organisation of the Muslim Brotherhood.”
The non-Egyptian journalists have been detained in Cairo since December 30. An international campaign is working for their release.