“It is unacceptable for any state or foreign party to intervene in the affairs of the Egyptian judiciary,” said Foreign Ministry spokesman Badr Abdelatty in comments on the responses to the trial of 20 Al Jazeera employees.
On Wednesday, 20 employees from the Qatar-based news channel were
Abdelatty expressed “full rejection of any attempt by a foreign party to question the independence of the Egyptian judiciary,” a statement posted by the foreign ministry on Thursday said.
He said the decision to try the defendants was taken by prosecution, which is part of the Egyptian judicial system, describing the system as being “fully independent”.
He added that the judicial system provides all legal safeguards for defendants and that there are several degrees of litigation such that a defendant has the right to appeal if convicted.
United States State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said on Wednesday the US is “deeply concerned” by the Egyptian government’s “targeting of journalists and others on spurious claims”, in one of the most strongly worded statements by the US against the interim Egyptian government.
Abdelatty’s comments were largely in response to questions on Psaki’s statement as well as other reactions.
Human rights watchdog Amnesty International called for the immediate and unconditional release of the Al Jazeera journalists currently being detained, and for prosecutors to drop all charges.
The charges also drew condemnation from press freedom advocate the Committee to Protect Journalists, who said the “government’s lack of tolerance” is indicative of its inability to “handle criticism”.
Dubbed the “Marriott Cell” by the prosecution, the main charges centre around three Al Jazeera journalists arrested on 29 December, Canadian-Egyptian bureau chief Mohamed Fadel Fahmy, Australian correspondent Peter Greste, and producer Baher Mohamed, an Egyptian national. Fahmy and Greste were arrested at the Zamalek Marriott, where they were using two rented suites as a base for operations, while Baher was arrested the same night at his home in suburban Cairo.
Of the 20 defendants facing trial, eight are in custody and arrest warrants have been issued for the remaining 12.