Eight journalists imprisoned in Egypt will be kept behind bars until at least March 5 when their trial is set to resume.
The Egyptian court made the ruling Feb. 20 after the journalists — who were locked in the courtroom’s metal cages — pleaded not guilty to charges of joining, aiding or abetting the terrorist organization the Muslim Brotherhood, BBC News reports.
Three of the journalists, Mohamed Fahmy, Peter Greste and Baher Mohammed, work for Al Jazeera and were arrested in Cairo on Dec. 29, 2013. Al Jazeera says these men are innocent of all charges.
“The state has presented no evidence to support the allegations, and we have not been formally charged with any crime,” said Greste in a letter written from prison.
“The state will not tolerate hearing from the Muslim Brotherhood or any other critical voices. The prisons are overflowing with anyone who opposes or challenges the government.”
Greste writes that the prison conditions are appalling.
“I am in Tora prison – a sprawling complex in the south of the city where the authorities routinely violate legally enshrined prisoners’ rights, denying visits from lawyers, keeping cells locked for 20 hours a day (and 24 hours on public holidays) and so on,” says Greste. “[Fahmy and [Mohammed] spend 24 hours a day in their mosquito-infested cells, sleeping on the floor with no books or writing materials to break the soul- destroying tedium.”
Others have tweeted in outrage about the lack of treatment the journalists have received.
Mohamed Fahmy’s shoulder still in a sling, said he needs a specialist to look at it.It’s been broken for 50 days no treatment or painkillers
— Bel Trew – بل ترو (@Beltrew) February 20, 2014
The journalists must endure harsh conditions despite the fact they have not been convicted.
In total, 20 journalists are currently being held in Egyptian prisons awaiting trial. These cases demonstrate the Egyptian government’s crackdown on freedom of speech.
The trials have fueled protests worldwide. Canadian Journalists along with a variety of non-governmental organizations released a statement on Feb, 6 asking the Egyptian government to free these prisoners.
“We ask the Egyptian authorities to stop their persecution and release all other detained journalists,” says the statement.
“We aspire that they be proponents of democracy by enabling reporters to carry out their professions without fear of retribution and by empowering diverse voices for the purpose of building a greater Egypt with tolerance, civil liberties and understanding.”