On 29 of December 2013, Al-Jazeera English journalists Peter Greste, Mohamed Fahmy, and Baher Mohamed were arrested on charges of disturbing domestic security and aiding a terrorist group, namely the Muslim Brotherhood.
Al-Jazeera’s coverage of Egypt during the 30 June 2013 revolution that saw the overthrow of Islamist president Mohamed Morsi was considered by many to be baseless and bias. This led to the arrest, on 29 December, of Greste, Fahmy and Mohamed under suspicion of reporting news that was damaging to national security, to Egypt’s international image and aiding a terrorist organisation.
A month later, on 29 January, the three journalists were officially charged. Greste was kept in solitary confinement until he was officially charged. A month in, he and his colleagues were thus held in the same cell until February 2014.
On 21 February, Greste was refused bail and had his court case adjourned until 5 March. On 31 March, he and co-defendants Fahmy and Mohamed made a request to be released during their hearing. During the hearing Greste reportedly told the judge: “The idea that I could have an association with the Muslim Brotherhood is frankly preposterous.”
On 23 June, Greste was found guilty by the court, and sentenced to seven years in prison. Fahmy also received seven years and Mohamed received a sentence of 10 years in prison.
Greste along with his Al-Jazeera English colleagues were seen by many internationally as political prisoners due to the nature of the trial, the lack of applicable evidence presented and the sentences. There were many reports of contrasting testimonies made during the hearings and previously collected written testimonies.
Since their arrest, Al-Jazeera and many other media outlets campaigned for their release, decrying the arrests as anti-democratic and totalitarian. US Secretary of State John Kerry was highly critical of the sentences of Greste and his co-workers, terming them “chilling and draconian” and noted he had spoken to Egyptian governmental officials including President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi. However, Al-Sisi declared that he would not interfere in judicial rulings.
On 1 January 2015, the Egyptian Court of Cassation issued a ruling upholding the appeal filed by Greste and his colleagues to overturn his conviction and seven-year sentence. In so doing, Egypt’s highest court recognised that there were legal errors in the original trial. But instead of releasing him, the court ordered a retrial and declined to grant him bail.
Many commentators, including Amal Clooney, Fahmy’s attorney, were not optimistic about the trial claiming that it was unclear how a second trial would fix the problems of the first.
On 1 February, and with no prior warning, Greste was released and deported to his Australia, where he is expected to complete his sentence. His colleagues are still in jail.