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Interview Mohamed Fahmy : We are journalists, we are not criminals

Es ist kein Geheimnis, sagt Mohamed Fahmy, dass Ägypten und Qatar, Eigentümer von Al Dschazira, offene Rechnungen haben. Beglichen werden diese vor Gericht. Bild: AP

Journalist Mohamed Fahmy stands trial in Cairo. He is accused to have supported the Muslim Brotherhood. But he only did his job as bureau chief of Al Jazeera in Egypt. He himself blames the channel to have links to the Muslim Brotherhood. His has striking examples. On Saturday the verdict ist expected.

          It is expected the court in Cairo will hand down its final verdict in your case on Saturday. After your experiences with the jurisdiction in Egypt, do you still hope for a fair verdict?

          Michael Hanfeld

          verantwortlicher Redakteur für Feuilleton Online und „Medien“.

          I hope the 20-months nightmare of a show trial ends on Saturday morning with the acquittal we deserve as journalists who have not committed a crime. I am however, cautiously optimistic knowing that the outcome of the trial may be politicized due to the political score-settling between Egypt and Qatar the owner of Al Jazeera. We are victims of politics gone sour between the two nations. It is no secret that Qatar the owner of Al Jazeera is a die-hard supporter of the Muslim Brotherhood, the most organized political group at the time, which Egypt has ousted from the rule and designated as terrorists. 

          Many observers felt the prosecutor did not present sufficient evidence to prove that you and your colleagues Baher Mohamed and Peter Greste had indeed supported the Muslim Brotherhood and undermined national security. Also, it is dubious why you were originally sentenced to 7 and 10 years in prison, respectively.

          As bureau chief of Al Jazeera in Egypt I know that our reports were never fabricated and were always balanced, and well sourced. The technical committee of video specialists appointed by the court that sentenced us to 7 years in the first trial stated that the reports were fabricated and against national security of the country. This time in the retrial the new committee confirmed none of the reports were fabricated but could not comment if its against national security. So there is hope this time around that the trial is much more fairer to our advantage. The prosecutor also objected on the usage of term "coup" to describe what happened in Egypt in July 30th , so its more of a battle of idealogies and perceptions and the whole debate of objectivity which is no place for a criminal court. 

          How do you feel about Al Jazeera and its ethical and professional attitude? You have blamed Al Jazeera, the channel you have worked for, saying the broadcaster jeopardized both you and your colleagues. In what way and why?

          I have not lost sight of the Egyptian prosecution who put us in prison and I have highlighted all their mistakes in statements released from prison and during speeches in court.   However, after interviewing many prisoners in jail and reading all the case documents and interrogations of prisoners I have come to the conclusion that Al Jazeera conducted deliberate negligence and misrepresentation that contributed to our wrongful sentencing and made our situation much worse. For starters, we journalists learned in the cage for the first time that the network's operational and broadcast license was revoked by the government four months before our arrest. I also interviewed Muslim Brotherhood members and their affiliates in jail who had received cameras, live broadcast equipment from Al Jazeera and sold footage to the network, which was used on the Arabic channels without proper vetting or sourcing. I was shocked to learn this because this is not citizen journalism and makes Al Jazeera seem like it becoming part of the struggle rather than just reporting it. To support an opposition group that has been designated as terrorists in Egypt or any nation would be frowned upon and not considered media. I am angry that Al Jazeera kept me and my team in the dark about such unethical practices and did not give us the choice to decide, and surely if we knew of such nonsense I know none of us would have agreed.  That is why my lawyers in the retrial tried to convince the judge in the retrial to separate between the responsibilities of we journalists and the network hoping he would realize that none of us had any malice toward Egypt. 

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