CAIRO, February 2, 2014 – An Egyptian court on Sunday acquitted a cameraman working for Al Jazeera television and 61 others accused of taking part in clashes in Cairo, judicial sources said.
Mohamed Badr, an Egyptian, was arrested along with the others during clashes that erupted in Ramses Square in central Cairo, days after the July 3 ouster of Islamist president Mohamed Morsi by the army.
Prosecution had accused them of “carrying out acts of violence and thuggery … after an attempt to storm a police station and target police officers with firearms and birdshots”.
Badr’s lawyer Shaaban Saeed confirmed his client had been acquitted, adding that Badr was not involved in any other case.
“His release is expected tomorrow,” Saeed told AFP.
In a separate case, Egyptian prosecutors last week referred to trial “20 journalists” working for the Qatar-based Al Jazeera network, after accusing them of portraying Egypt in a state of “civil war” and “airing false news”.
They include 16 Egyptians and four foreigners – Australian Peter Greste, two Britons and a Dutch woman, the prosecution said.
While Greste, an award-winning journalist who previously worked for the BBC, is in custody, the other three foreigners are “on the run from the law”, the authorities said, and the four if proved guilty could face jail term of up to seven years.
Al Jazeera says the charges against its crew are “silly and not based on any reality”.
International rights groups have condemned the Egyptian authorities for referring the crew to trial.
Amnesty International secretary general Salil Shetty said the decision to prosecute the journalists “sends the chilling message that only one narrative is acceptable in Egypt today – that which is sanctioned by the Egyptian authorities”.
Since Morsi’s ouster, his supporters have staged near-daily protests calling for his reinstatement. Their rallies have often sparked deadly street clashes with security forces and civilian opponents.
Egypt’s military-installed government, whose ties with Qatar have strained since Morsi’s ouster, has been incensed by Al Jazeera’s coverage of its deadly crackdown against the Muslim Brotherhood to which the deposed Islamist belongs.