An Egyptian judge on Saturday handed down unexpectedly harsh verdicts in the trial of three journalists from the Al Jazeera English news channel, sentencing them to at least three years in prison on charges that human rights advocates have repeatedly dismissed as political in nature.
The journalists, Mohamed Fahmy, Baher Mohamed and Peter Greste, had said they were expecting to be exonerated or sentenced to time already served. Egyptian officials have strongly suggested they were eager to be rid of the case, which had become a source of international embarrassment for the government of President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi, highlighting its sweeping crackdown on opponents as well as freedom of expression after the military takeover in 2013.
But on Saturday, the judge, Hassan Farid, said that the men, who had all previously worked for other internationally respected news organizations, were not in fact journalists because they lacked the necessary credentials. And he upheld what rights advocates said was among many baseless accusations leveled during their trial: that the journalists had “broadcast false news” about Egypt on Al Jazeera.