The trial of 20 people accused of creating “a terrorist media network” and spreading false news continued on Tuesday at Tora prison.
The defendants go into the sixth session of the trial having been denied bail for the second time by the judge during the previous session on 10 April.
Journalists were briefly ejected from the Tora prison courtroom by the judge because of their contact with the defendants, who were in a cage inside the court, as has been the case in the previous sessions.
Midway through the trial police escorted the local and international media representatives out of the courtroom, according to journalists attending the trial. In previous sessions journalists at the trial have been permitted to talk to the defendants during the court recess, but were allowed back into the courtroom on Tuesday on the condition that they do not interact with the defendants.
Twelve of the twenty are being tried in absentia, and among the eight in custody are three Al Jazeera journalists, Australian correspondent Peter Greste, Canadian-Egyptian bureau chief Mohamed Fadel Fahmy and Egyptian producer Baher Mohamed. The remaining five defendants are Egyptian students who deny involvement with the Al Jazeera network and the other defendants.
The sixth session comes on the heels of a visit to Egypt by Canadian Minister of Foreign Affairs John Baird who met with his Egyptian counterpart Nabil Fahmy and the family of the detained Canadian-Egyptian. Baird said he received assurances from his counterpart that the trial process would be fair.
In the previous session the prosecution presented video evidence consisting of footage, found in Greste’s possession, of a press conference by a Kenyan official in the aftermath of a deadly attack on a mall. The video was dismissed by the judge as irrelevant to the case. Also displayed to the court were photographs of Greste’s elderly parents and footage of a horse from Sky News Arabia.
The judge ordered for the prosecution’s video evidence to be viewed in private between the two sessions.
Dubbed the “Marriott Cell” by the prosecution, Fahmy and Greste were arrested from two rented suites at the Marriott Hotel in Zamalek, which they had been using as a base for operations, on 29 December. Egyptian producer Baher Mohamed was arrested on the same night from his house in suburban Cairo. The five students were arrested on 31 December and 2 January.
The other foreign defendants in the case are Sue Turton and Dominic Kane, who have worked for Al-Jazeera in Cairo previously. Dutch journalist Rena Netjes has never worked for Al Jazeera but met with Fahmy at the Marriott hotel. She was allowed to leave Egypt following discussions between the Dutch embassy and the foreign ministry.
The Qatar based news network Al Jazeera has been accused by the Egyptian government of distorting the image of Egypt and spreading false news. The network is viewed by the Egyptian government of being overly sympathetic towards the Muslim Brotherhood, which it declared a terrorist organisation on 25 December.
At the time of print the trial was still ongoing.