Trial of Al-Jazeera journalists begins in Egypt

Thursday 20 February 2014 19.41
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Foreign journalists hold banners bearing a picture of Peter Greste during a protest against his detention
Foreign journalists hold banners bearing a picture of Peter Greste during a protest against his detention
Prosecutors allege Mr Greste and his colleagues manipulated footage and supported the Muslim Brotherhood
Prosecutors allege Mr Greste and his colleagues manipulated footage and supported the Muslim Brotherhood

The trial of three journalists from Al-Jazeera's English news channel opened in Egypt today.

The three are charged with having links to a terrorist organisation and spreading false news.

The case has sparked accusations of censorship against Egypt's military-installed government.

Prosecutors allege that the defendants, including award-winning Australian Peter Greste and Egyptian-Canadian Mohamed Fadel Fahmy, manipulated footage and supported the Muslim Brotherhood.

The Brotherhood was banned after former president Mohammed Mursi was deposed.

A total of 20 people are on trial, but only eight of them are in custody.

If convicted, they could be sentenced to several years in jail.

After opening the trial, the Cairo court said it will hear prosecution witnesses and consider the evidence at the next hearing on 5 March.

Al-Jazeera, which says only nine of the defendants are on its staff, has denied the charges.

Egypt denies the case is an attack on freedom of speech. It says the Al-Jazeera journalists were working illegally because they did not have press passes.

Al-Jazeera is a regular target for Egypt's military-backed interim government.

Egypt regards the network as a mouthpiece for Islamists.

The channel is owned by the government of Qatar, which backs the Muslim Brotherhood.