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Al Jazeera Turk / Twitter

There has been international condemnation of an Egyptian court’s verdicts that will see three Al Jazeera journalists imprisoned on charges related to spreading false news and supporting the Muslim Brotherhood.

Al Jazeera English journalists Peter Greste and Mohamed Fahmy were each jailed for seven years, whilst their colleague Baher Mohamed was also handed down an additional three-year sentence for possession of ammunition, making his sentence 10 years.

Seven other Al Jazeera journalists who were being tried in absentia were given 10 year prison sentences.

Patrick Kingsley, a reporter for UK newspaper The Guardian, was in court as the verdicts were handed down.

Families

Kingsley described the reactions of some of the journalists’ families, reporting Australian national Greste’s brother Andrew as saying: “I’m just stunned. It’s difficult to comprehend how they can have reached this decision.”

Later, he tweeted:

Kingsley also reported that Fahmy’s mother and fiancée both broke down in tears, while his brother Adel, who traveled from his home in Kuwait for the verdict, reacted with fury:

“This is not a system. This is not a country. They’ve ruined our lives. It shows everything that’s wrong with the system: it’s corrupt. This country is corrupt through and through.”

Fahmy’s mother is reported to have left the court in tears.

International reaction

Several foreign governments and international human rights organizations have also reacted to the verdict.

The UK Foreign Office has announced that it has summoned the Egyptian ambassador in London over the sentencing. Two of the journalists convicted in absentia, Sue Turton and Dominic Kane, are British nationals.

British Foreign Minister William Hague has said he is “appalled” by the verdict.

The Dutch government has also summoned the Egyptian Ambassador to the Netherlands, and said that it will “raise the matter” with European Union colleagues. Dutch journalist Rena Netjes was also convicted in absentia this morning.

Meanwhile, Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop gave a media statement stating that the Greste family were currently seeking legal advice, which may include a legal appeal.

Bishop said the Australian government was also hoping to “initiate contact” with the Egyptian President “to see if we can gain some kind of intervention”.

She told journalists: “We are shocked by this verdict. “Freedom of the press is fundamental in a democracy. We are deeply concerned that this verdict is part of a broader attempt to muzzle the media freedom [in Egypt].”

The Australian journalists’ union MEAA immediately issued a statement condemning the verdicts, saying it called on Egyptian authorities to “urgently intervene to free the three journalists who have been detained for simply doing their jobs”. The full statement can be viewed here.

And Mohamed Lofty, an observer for Amnesty International, is reported to have said:

The Qatari government has not yet issued an official statement on today’s verdict.

Al Jazeera’s view

Throughout the trial, and following the verdict, Al Jazeera has maintained that its journalists are innocent.

Al Jazeera’s Acting Director General Mostefa Souag has said that the channel is “outraged, very angry and very shocked” at the verdicts.

The Doha-based broadcaster said it would continue its campaign to free its staff. Al Jazeera English Managing Director Al Anstey issued a statement, in which he described the verdict as one which “defies logic, sense and any semblance of justice”:

“There is no justification whatsoever in the detention of our three colleagues for even one minute.  To have detained them for 177 Days is an outrage. To have sentenced them defies logic, sense, and any semblance of justice.”

A full version of the statement can be viewed here. Al Jazeera’s Sue Turton was one of the journalists who was tried and sentenced in absentia today.  Speaking on Al Jazeera English, she said:

“This has frozen us. But that’s nothing compared to being incarcerated and looking at years in prison. The world can not turn away from this. Just keep pushing.”

Twitter support Thousands of messages of support appeared on Twitter, under the hashtags #FreeAJStaff, #Journalismisnotacrime  and #AJTrial within just minutes of the verdict. These included support from journalists around the world.

Thoughts?

I even told one firefighter, ‘I can give you money.’ Please go check the nursery. They just looked at me like a crazy person who doesn’t know what’s going on.

Grace O, mother of 2 1/2-year-old daughter Zeinah Aouani, a child who died in Monday’s Villaggio fire, quoted in an Atlanta Journal-Constitution piece in which she criticized the rescue efforts and Qatar’s handling of the tragedy.

O, an economics professor in Georgia, spoke to AJC about how when she saw the smoke at Villaggio, she initially thought it was due to a small fire, as had taken place during another visit she had taken to the mall earlier that week.

But as she saw the smoke grow, so did her sense of panic.

AJC reports:

“Some firefighters, they worked hard,” O said. “But there were so many other firefighters doing nothing.”

…”At the hospital when we went to the mortuary, they showed us pictures of the dead kids,” O recalled … “All the kids from the nursery were dead. They asked me, ‘Is this your kid? Is this your kid?’”

“My kid was the last one,” she said.

When O and husband Zaier Aouani, an economics professor at Qatar University, tried to leave Qatar to take their daughter home to buried, they said they encountered a sea of bureaucracy. 

“How much incompetence do you need to get to this point?” Aouani told AJC, adding that he was skeptical about what a thorough inquiry would yield.

“It’s not going to happen,” he said. “It’s more a PR campaign after the accident then a serious investigation or anything.”

Other parents of the victims, including the Weekes, who lost their two-year-old triplets in the fire, have expressed more hope and faith in the investigation.

Still others can think of nothing but the children they have lost.

Meedo Shata, father of three-year-old Yousef, left this comment on our post of victims’ names:

i am in burn. I lost everything to live from and my love, my son yousef who died with the children. i wish i died with him.

Credit: Top photo courtesy of AJC; Second photo courtesy of Meedo Shata

There’s nothing like a change in weather to get people talking, and in a desert country, what’s more exciting than rain?

While there was a bit of foreshadowing yesterday – with dark clouds darkening the sky – today started off hot and dusty. Sprinkles began in the afternoon, waxing and waning in intensity for the better part of an hour, before finally abating.

Let’s hope that’s not that last we see of rain this season!

Here’s what our friends on Twitter had to say about it: