News World Egypt trial of Aljazeera journalists told of torture claims

Egypt trial of Aljazeera journalists told of torture claims

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The Egyptian trial of 20 Aljazeera journalists, including Australian Peter Greste, has heard claims of torture from the defendants.

Greste was among six defendants who appeared in a caged dock wearing white prison uniforms as the trial resumed on Wednesday.

The defendants are accused of supporting deposed president Mohamed Morsi’s outlawed Muslim Brotherhood and broadcasting false reports, after police shut down the offices of Aljazeera Mubasher Misr, the network’s Egyptian channel, following the military’s July 3 overthrow of Morsi.

Prosecutors say the defendants worked with the Egyptian channel without proper press accreditations, but the defendants say they work with Aljazeera English.

Canadian-Egyptian Mohamed Fadel Fahmy, who was arrested along with Greste in December, told the court his right shoulder “has been broken for 10 weeks and I sleep on the floor”.

“I ask you to free me on the guarantee from the Canadian embassy that I will not leave the country,” he said.

Relatives said Fahmy broke his shoulder before he was arrested.

During the hearing, a security official who is part of the investigation team told a defence lawyer that Fahmy “works for Aljazeera Mubasher Misr, and I am not a media man to differentiate between the two channels, Aljazeera Mubasher Misr and Aljazeera English.

“As long as he collaborates with a channel that broadcasts false news and cooperates with the Brotherhood, then he is a member of the Brotherhood.”

Fahmy insisted that he and other defendants worked for Aljazeera English, telling reporters that he had even told the network that “none of his content should appear on Aljazeera Mubasher Misr”.

He said that all staff members had valid cards from the Egyptian press centre.

Greste too denied that the defendants worked with the Egyptian channel.

“The evidence of the first witness (security officer) seems to have fallen apart, and if the rest of the case is based on his evidence the whole case will fall apart,” he said.

“Nothing that incriminates us is in our equipment,” he said, referring to broadcasting equipment presented by the prosecution as evidences.

Another defendant, Soheib Saad, said he was “tortured by state security”.

Without elaborating, he said he faced “physical and psychological torture” and had “asked to be checked (by a doctor) but nobody answered”.

Greste’s brother Andrew told AFP earlier on Wednesday that his brother was in “good physical condition” and not “physically abused”.

The trial was later adjourned to March 24.

Latvia expects “immediate” release

Latvia says it expects Egypt to immediately release Greste, a dual Australian-Latvian citizen.

“We expect his immediate release as he has committed no crime,” Latvian foreign ministry spokesman Karlis Eihenbaums told AFP.

“The Egyptian authorities have promised a fair trial,” he said as allegations surfaced in a Cairo court on Wednesday that other journalists on trial alongside Greste had been tortured in prison.

“Latvia and Australia are cooperating. Support to his lawyers been provided, who are working hard,” Eihenbaums added.

He confirmed that Australia-born Greste, whose father is from Latvia, had registered as a Latvian in the 1990s as the Baltic nation broke free from the crumbling Soviet Union in 1991.

Despite being registered and receiving a certificate of citizenship, he never formally collected his passport, Eihenbaums said.

“He is a Latvian citizen. He registered as Latvian citizen in the 1990s. His father is a Latvian citizen, which automatically entitled him to citizenship,” he added.

Latvian Foreign Minister Edgars Rinkevics has taken up Greste’s case with EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton and the Egyptian government.

Rinkevics and Australian counterpart Julie Bishop agreed on Wednesday by telephone “to closely coordinate the activities of Latvian and Australian diplomatic services to have Peter Greste released as soon as possible”, according to a Latvian foreign ministry statement.