Asmaa Waguih / Reuters

Al Jazeera staff held for one year in Egypt

Dec. 29 marks one year since Baher Mohamed, Mohamed Fahmy and Peter Greste were imprisoned on false charges

It has been one year since three Al Jazeera journalists were arrested in Egypt in a case that has sparked international outrage.

Baher Mohamed, Mohamed Fahmy and Peter Greste were arrested in Cairo on Dec. 29, 2013, under false charges of aiding the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood and spreading false news. In June, Greste, an Australian, and Fahmy, an Egyptian-Canadian, received seven-year prison terms, and Mohamed, an Egyptian, was sentenced to 10 years.

Mohamed's wife, Jehan Rashed, told Al Jazeera that the day her husband was arrested had been the worst of her life. "The sentiment of injustice is overwhelming," she said. "Baher was arrested on this day a year ago. It was the worst day Baher, our children and I have ever lived.

"It was a dark day. I wonder if the [Egyptian] army and police are protecting the people. They came to arrest a journalist, while realizing deep within he is a respectable professional, but they acted as if he was a felon," she said.

On Thursday an appeal for the three journalists will be heard at Egypt’s Court of Cassation. The court will look at the process behind the original trial, which Al Jazeera has always maintained was flawed. The court can dismiss the cases, uphold the verdicts and sentences or order a new trial.

President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi may issue a presidential pardon, but he maintains that he will not interfere in the judicial process. The Egyptian government has defended the incarceration of the journalists, arguing that it was not a political decision and that it is now up to the appeals process to determine what should happen next.

Despite Sisi's stated reluctance to interfere with the judicial process, statements he made in recent months signaled a possible softening of that stance. In July local media reported that Sisi said he wished that the journalists had been deported rather than jailed, in the first signal that he disagreed with sentences handed down the previous month.

In a November interview with France 24, Sisi said that when the three were arrested, he "did not have the power to make decisions about their situation. If I had been president at that time, I would have decided, for the good and security of Egypt, that the journalists would have to be expelled, to put an end to this issue once and for all."

He also told France 24 that the possibility of a presidential pardon was "under discussion."

The White House, the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office, the European Union, the Australian government and more than 150 rights groups — including Amnesty International, the Committee to Protect Journalists and the International Press Institute — have called for the release of the Al Jazeera staffers.

Speaking to Al Jazeera from Durban, South Africa, on Monday, former U.N. Human Rights High Commissioner Navi Pillay said she is extremely concerned about the harassment of journalists and rights activists in Egypt. With a number of journalists detained in Egypt, she considers freedom of expression the real target.

Mohamed, Fahmy and Greste were arrested in Cairo as they covered the aftermath of the army's removal of Mohamed Morsi from the presidency in July. The prosecution said Greste, Al Jazeera's East Africa correspondent, and his Egypt bureau colleagues aided the Brotherhood and produced false news reports on the turmoil in Egypt.

The interim Egyptian government listed the Brotherhood, which supported Morsi, as a terrorist organization shortly before the three men were arrested. Among the evidence that prosecution presented were a BBC podcast, a news report made while none of the accused were in Egypt, a pop music video by the Australian singer Gotye and several recordings on non-Egyptian issues.

The Court of Cassation will examine how the country's law has been applied so far in the journalists' cases, but it will not assess the evidence or the charges. It is mostly procedural, with arrest warrants, the trial and the verdict to be reviewed. The judges meet for a week every month, but there is no time frame for them to issue a decision.

Al Jazeera

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