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GLOBAL: Lawyers of jailed Australian Al Jazeera journalist quit suddenly

Australian journalists call for the release of the Al Jazeera staff imprisoned in Egypt. Image: Media Entertainment and Arts Alliance

Friday, May 16, 2014

Item: 8614

CAIRO (Pacific Media Watch / New Zealand Herald / Al Jazeera International):  Imprisoned Australian journalist Peter Greste has been hit with another setback after his Egyptian legal defence team quit publicly in court yesterday.

Lawyer Farag Fathy and two others said yesterday they would no longer defend Al Jazeera journalists Grest, Mohammed Fahmy and Baher Mohamed, alleging that the Qatari-based satellite channel Al Jazeera had a "vendetta" against the Egyptian government.

Al Jazeera denied this claim.

When the announcement was made, Greste was photographed inside a cage like structure looking surprised and trying to talk.

Internationally, journalists' unions and human rights organisations have condemned the five-month detention of Fahmy, Grest and Mohamed on charges of "doctoring footage, aiding terrorism and conspiring with the Muslim Brotherhood to damage the country’s reputation".

Al Jazeera said it had immediately replaced the lawyers.

The Egyptian prosecution recently demanded that the defence lawyers pay almost $200,000 to view video evidence which the Egyptian regime claims is evidence that the journalists are guilty, The Guardian reported.

The New Zealand Herald reported that another Al Jazeera journalist, Abdullah Elshamy, "has had his appeal against a detention extension of 45 days rejected. Elshamy, who has been on hunger strike since January in protest at his detention, appeared gaunt in the dock and told reporters he was placed in solitary confinement in the maximum security wing of Cairo's Torah prison".

The trial resumes on May 22.

Radio Australia reports that Al Jazeera last week decided to sue the Egyptian regime in a separate case for US$150 million for the imprisonment of its journalists, the jamming of Al Jazeera satellites broadcasting in Egypt, and the closure of Al Jazeera's bureau in Cairo.

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