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Thursday, January 30, 2014

Charge Sheet Against Al Jazeera Journalists in Egypt

As our colleague David Kirkpatrick reported, Egyptian prosecutors said on Wednesday that they were charging 20 journalists working for Al Jazeera with conspiring with a terrorist group and broadcasting false images.

The prosecution statement suggested that the journalists were being accused of joining the Muslim Brotherhood, which the military-backed government that took power in July has declared a terrorist organization. The Qatari network Al Jazeera was among the first targets of the new government’s general crackdown on dissent and sympathy for Egypt’s Islamists.

Here is a translation of the complete statement from the prosecutors:

The chief prosecutor orders the indictment of 20 defendants, including four foreigners (1 Australian, 2 Britons and a Dutch woman), from among the correspondents of the Qatari Al Jazeera media network.

The public prosecution has issued arrest warrants for the defendants, who joined a terrorist group, and the foreign correspondents who created a media network of 20 Egyptians and foreigners. They rented two suites in a luxury hotel in downtown Cairo to use as a media center, and supplied it with filming, editing and broadcasting units and computers used to collect media material and manipulate it in order to produce unreal scenes to suggest abroad that what’s happening in the country is a civil war that raises alarms about the state’s collapse.

They broadcast these scenes through the Qatari Jazeera channel to assist the terrorist group in achieving its purposes of influencing international public opinion.

The general prosecution has examined the devices, equipment and the media material confiscated from the defendants and assigned a committee from the Radio and Television Union and forensic evidence experts to examine them. The technical reports revealed that this media material contains video clips that were altered and edited, using a high-tech program and editing devices, and that these scenes are false and damage the country’s national security.

The general prosecutor charged the Egyptian defendants with committing the crimes of joining a terrorist group founded in violation of the law’s provisions with the purpose of calling for obstructing laws, hindering the work of state institutions, assaulting citizens’ personal freedoms, damaging national security and social peace using terrorism as means to achieve its purposes.

The foreign defendants were charged with collaborating with the Egyptian defendants through the means of agreement and assistance to supply the members of this group with funds, devices, equipment and information knowing the purposes of this group.

The charges also included:

- The possession of documents and recordings that involve promotion for its purposes for the viewing of others knowing the means used by this terrorist group.

- Broadcasting false statements, news and rumors and unreal images about the domestic conditions of the country and displaying them for the audience, domestic and foreign, to suggest to international public opinion that the country is undergoing a civil war in order to weaken the state’s standing and prestige and to damage the national interest of the country and disturb public security.

- Terrorizing people and damaging the public interest.

- The possession of communication and filming equipment and devices of audio and image transmission without permit from the competent authority.

The charge sheet concluded: “The chief prosecutor ordered the referral of eight detained defendants to Cairo’s criminal court and the arrest of the 12 fugitives to be detained pending trial.”

The charges, against several Al Jazeera journalists regarded as scrupulous professionals by their colleagues at other news organizations in Cairo, provoked anger and caustic laughter online.

Follow Mayy El Sheikh, an assistant reporter in The Times Cairo bureau, @MayyNYT.

Robert Mackey also remixes the news on Twitter @robertmackey.