Tensions are escalating between Egypt and the U.K. after a Cairo court sentenced three Al-Jazeera English journalists to a three year jail term in a retrial of the long-running case which is sparking global outrage and sees human rights lawyer Amal Clooney now on the defence team.
Egypt’s Foreign Ministry on Sunday summoned the British ambassador in Cairo to protest comments he made on Facebook and Twitter after the new sentence for allegedly reporting “false news.” In an interview with the BBC Amal Clooney, who is George Clooney’s wife, urged Egyptian president Abdel Fattah el-Sissi, to issue a presidential pardon.
She said it was ironic that “the conviction was for tarnishing Egypt’s reputation when the thing that the international community condemns Egypt for is this case and similar cases. This is what’s tarnishing Egypt’s image. I do think that he (Sissi) is aware of that and he has a way to fix it.”
“I think we all know what’s at stake,” she added. “It’s media freedom in Egypt and in the region. This is a case that’s going to set a precedent one way or another. And it’s also about the integrity of the judicial process.”
Amal Clooney is representing Canadian citizen Mohammed Fahmy, who is now back behind bars after the retrial, which also condemned Australian Peter Greste and Egyptian Baher Mohammed.
Greste was sentenced in absentia on Saturday after being released in February on president Sissi’s orders after spending more than 400 days behind bars. His two colleagues had also been released in February, but they had remained in Egypt for the retrial and are now back behind bars.
Fahey, Greste, and Mohamed were working for Al Jazeera’s English-language news channel when they were detained on December 29, 2013, at the Cairo Marriott hotel. The three respected journalists have reportedly been linked by Egyptian prosecutors to supposed student terrorist groups connected with the Muslim Brotherhood, though no evidence has been provided during the two trials.