Al-Jazeera journalist makes plea to judge before trial verdict


Three journalists from al-Jazeera English on trial in have been told they will discover their fate next week.

Mohamed Fahmy, Peter Greste and Baher Mohamed are in collaboration with five students with links to Egypt's the Islamist opposition.

The trio will hope the verdict, which the judge is to deliver on 23 June, will end an 170-day ordeal that has left Fahmy permanently disabled in his right arm, after he did not receive adequate treatment in jail for a dislocated shoulder dislocated shortly before his arrest in December.

"Before you rule against us, look at my arm. It's a life sentence to me," said Fahmy, in an emotional plea to the judge, Mohamed Nagy, shortly before the trial was adjourned for the 12th and final time.

In a surreal turn, Fahmy handed Nagy a copy of a book about George W Bush, reminding the judge that it was the former US president who wrecked Iraq, rather than – as the prosecution alleged in their summing-up this month – al-Jazeera.

Fahmy stressed the innocence of Greste, an Australian former BBC correspondent who was arrested days after his arrival in Egypt.

Earlier, a lawyer for the five students alleged that his clients had been added to the case to create the false impression that the journalists and activists were united in a joint terrorist conspiracy. "The students were only arrested because in the media it sounds better if you can call it a cell," said the lawyer, who also alleged his clients were tortured in custody.

In the Egyptian media, the defendants are known as the Marriott cell, after the hotel where the journalists were arrested, and have been portrayed as agents bent on Egypt's downfall.

The five students – Sohaib Saad, Khaled Mohamed, Shadi Ibrahim, Ahmed Ibrahim and Anas Beltagy – were arrested several days after the journalists, and, according to a friend campaigning on their behalf, were initially told they would be charged in a separate case.

"When they were arrested, the police told us that they were going to be jailed for having maps of Egypt, and planning to kill police officers," Sara Mohamed, a friend of the five, has previously told the Guardian. "It was only later that they were going to be involved in the AJ case. The boys started laughing out loud when they heard that."

Lawyers for the three journalists made their summings-up in a , in which they criticised a string of procedural flaws in the prosecution's case, which centred on a collection of videos seized from the defendants' computers.

Lawyers also pointed out how the on which the prosecution's case was founded.

Greste faces up to seven years in jail if found guilty, while the others face 15.

A fourth al-Jazeera journalist, Abdullah Elshamy, has been under arrest without charge in a separate case since August. To raise awareness of his case Elshamy has been on hunger strike for 150 days. As punishment, he was recently moved to solitary confinement.

He and his three colleagues are among , according to the US-based Committee to Protect Journalists, and at least 16,000 political prisoners.

"This case is just another example of how the government is cracking down on all kinds of dissent," Fahmy told reporters from the defendants' cage during a recess on Monday.