A court in Egypt has sentenced three Al Jazeera journalists to three years in jail after finding them guilty of "aiding a terrorist organization."
Egyptian Baher Mohamed, Canadian Mohamed Fahmy and Australian Peter Greste were all handed three-year jail sentences when the court in Cairo delivered the verdict on Saturday, sparking worldwide condemnation of the decision.
Mohamed was sentenced to an additional six months for possession of a spent bullet casing. An appeal against the verdicts is planned.
Judge Hassan Farid, in his ruling, said he sentenced the men to prison because they had not registered with the country's journalist syndicate.
He also said the men brought in equipment without security officials' approval, had broadcast "false news" on Al Jazeera and used a hotel as a broadcasting point without permission. Following the sentence hearing, both Mohamed and Fahmy were escorted to Tora prison in southern Cairo, according to Egyptian media.
The verdict was immediately slammed by Al Jazeera Media Network's Acting Director General Dr. Mostefa Souag, who said: "Today's verdict defies logic and common sense. Our colleagues Baher Mohamed and Mohamed Fahmy will now have to return to prison, and Peter Greste is sentenced in absentia.
"The whole case has been heavily politicized and has not been conducted in a free and fair manner."
Souag continued: "There is no evidence proving that our colleagues in any way fabricated news or aided and abetted terrorist organizations and at no point during the long drawn out retrial did any of the unfounded allegations stand up to scrutiny.
"A report issued by a technical committee assigned by the court in Egypt contradicted the accusations made by the public prosecutor and stated in its report that the seized videos were not fabricated.
"Baher, Peter and Mohamed have been sentenced despite the fact that not a shred of evidence was found to support the extraordinary and false charges against them.
"Today's verdict is yet another deliberate attack on press freedom. It is a dark day for the Egyptian judiciary; rather than defend liberties and a free and fair media they have compromised their independence for political reasons."
Speaking from Sydney, Greste called the verdict "outrageous."
“We did nothing wrong. The court presented no evidence. For us to be convicted as terrorists is outrageous. It can only be a political verdict. This is unethical," Greste said.
Amnesty International condemned the sentences, calling them a "death knell for freedom of expression in Egypt."
Philip Luther, the director of Amnesty's Middle East and North Africa program, said: "The fact that two of these journalists are now facing time in jail following two grossly unfair trials makes a mockery of justice in Egypt. Today's verdict must be overturned immediately. Mohamed Fahmy and Baher Mohamed should be allowed to walk free without conditions. We consider them to be prisoners of conscience, jailed solely for exercising their right to freedom of expression."
Fahmy's lawyer Amal Clooney said an appeal was planned: "We are now going to be holding a series of meetings with government officials where we will be asking for Mr. Fahmy's immediate deportation to Canada."
Canada's minister of state for consular affairs, Lynne Yelich, demanded Fahmy's "immediate" release. Likewise Australia's Foreign Minister Julie Bishop said she was "dismayed" by the sentenced handed to the three men, including Australian citizen Greste.
The journalists were initially found guilty in June 2014 of aiding a "terrorist organization," a reference to the Muslim Brotherhood, which was outlawed in Egypt after the army overthrew President Mohamed Morsi in 2013.
Greste and Fahmy received seven years, while Mohamed was given 10 years.
In January, an appeals court ordered a retrial, saying the initial verdict lacked evidence against the three journalists working for the Doha-based network's English channel.
The journalists and Al Jazeera have vigorously denied the accusations during the trial.
Ten previous sessions in the court had all been adjourned.
Greste has already been deported to his native Australia under a law allowing the transfer of foreigners on trial to their home countries, but he was retried in absentia.
Fahmy and Mohamed were on bail ahead of the verdict after spending more than 400 days in detention.
Fahmy renounced his Egyptian nationality hoping he too would be deported.
The three men have received support from governments, media organizations and rights groups from around the world.