A campaign calling for the release of journalists convicted in the “Rabaa Operations Room” case was launched on World Press Freedom Day Sunday by a group of human rights activists.
Also joining in the campaign alongside the activists were the families and friends of the convicted journalists.
Convicted journalists in the case include: Abdullah Al-Fakharany, founding member of Rassd Network; Rassd’s Executive Director Samhi Mostafa. Mohamed Al-Adly, a presenter on the Islamist Amgad channel; and Egyptian-American activist Mohamed Soltan.
On 11 April, the Cairo Criminal Court sentenced Abdullah Al-Fakharany, hunger striking Mohamed Soltan and 35 defendants to life in prison. They also ratified the death sentences against 14 others in the Muslim Brotherhood’s “Operations Room” case.
Lawyer Ahmed Helmy told Daily News Egypt that the verdict has not been appealed since the Court has yet to release the grounds of judgment. “It is expected to be released next Sunday, and upon its release we will file an Appeals request, and then a trial session should be scheduled five-six months later,” said Helmy.
The campaign aims at mobilising international public opinion, including international human rights organisations and foreign governments, to exert pressure on the Egyptian government to release the journalists convicted in the “Rabaa Operations Room” case.
The launching was marked by the release of a short video featuring several prominent journalists and media personnel, calling for Al-Fakharany’s release and recounting his journalistic achievements.
The video, shot in Al Jazeera’s broadcasting chamber, features Al Jazeera journalist Abdullah Al-Shamy stating that Al-Fakharany is “jailed in Egypt for no other reason than reporting the truth”.
Other activists and prominent TV hosts appeared in the video, while highlighting its two main themes: “freedom for Al-Fakharany” and “journalism is not a crime”. These are also phrases frequently used as hashtags among activists on social media platforms calling for the release of detained journalists.
In a letter smuggled out of prison, Al-Fakharany wrote about his situation to mark World Press Freedom Day, which also happened to be his second behind bars.
Al-Fakharany recounted the methods of torture used against him inside four different prisons during his detention, and pointed out the discrepancies in the approaches taken towards Western journalists as opposed to Egyptian journalists.
“I was sentenced to life imprisonment,” he wrote, “where the court did not provide a single example of the supposed false news by way of evidence against me (if we assumed that such a charge is worthy of such a severe sentence).”
The Muslim Brotherhood’s Supreme Guide Mohamed Badie, and 50 other defendants have stood trial since April 2014 in case number 2210/2014, referred to as the “Rabaa Operations Room” case. The case was headed by Judge Nagy Shehata.