An Egyptian court has sentenced three Al Jazeera English journalists to three years prison for broadcasting "false news," sparking international outcry and underlining how authorities are trampling over free speech just over a year into general-turned-politician Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi's presidency. The men are now seeking a pardon from el-Sissi, who has personally expressed regret over the long-running trial and the damage it has done to Egypt's international reputation—saying it would have been better to simply deport the journalists. Al Jazeera said it will also appeal the verdict, once the court releases its full ruling in the next 30 days.
Canadian national Mohammed Fahmy, Australian journalist Peter Greste, and Egyptian producer Baher Mohammed's case had embroiled their work into the wider political conflict between Egypt and Qatar, where Al Jazeera is based, following the 2013 military ouster of Islamist President Mohammed Morsi. The verdict comes just weeks after el-Sissi issued a new anti-terrorism law, which sets a sweeping definition for who could face a harsh set of punishments, including journalists who don't toe the government line. The new law, like today's verdict, has drawn criticism from diplomats, press freedom advocates, and human rights organizations.