Sixteen defendants are Egyptians, others are an Australian, two Britons and a Dutch national
Egypt’s top prosecutor has referred to a criminal court trial 20 people including three journalists working for the Qatari TV network Al Jazeera on charges of airing fake footage about the country, judicial sources said Wednesday.
The defendants are charged with spreading false news to tarnish Egypt’s image, possessing unlicensed transmission equipment and disrupting public order.
They also face charges of joining and promoting the Muslim Brotherhood which the Egyptian government labelled as a terrorist organisation after blaming it for a string of violent attacks in the country. No date has been set for the trial.
Twelve of the 20 defendants are still at large. Arrest warrants have been issued for them, according to the sources.
Sixteen of the defendants are Egyptians and four foreigners — an Australian, two Britons and a Dutch national.
One of the accused is Peter Greste, an Australian correspondent, who has been detained in Egypt since December 29. He along with two other Al Jazeera journalists were arrested at a Nile-side Cairo hotel.
Al Jazeera has denied the accusations made against them.
“It was all of the highest journalistic standards and integrity, as has been all our output since the start of the momentous events in Egypt three years ago,” the Doha-based network said in a statement following the detention of the three.
Egyptian authorities accuse Al Jazeera of being biased to the Brotherhood and its leader Mohammad Mursi whom the military deposed as president in July following massive protests against his one-year rule.