Two Al-Jazeera Journalists Sentenced to Death in Egypt

Former director of news and producer were accused of leaking national security documents

Two employees of Al-Jazeera were sentenced to death by an Egyptian court on Saturday for allegedly leaking documents relating to national security during the rule of ousted president Mohammed Morsi, the Associated Press reports.

News producer Alaa Omar Mohammed (aka Alaa Sablan) andĀ former director of news at Al-Jazeera’s Arabic channel Ibrahim Mohammed Hilal were sentenced to death in absentia, as was as Asmaa al-Khateib, The latter worked for media network Rasd, which is suspected of having ties to Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood.

In all, six people were sentenced to death on Saturday, including documentarian Ahmed Afify.

Morsi and two of his aides received 25 years in prison, while Morsi and his secretary, Amin el-Sirafy, drew additional sentences of 15 years.

The verdicts handed down on Saturday are subject to appeal.

Morsi, who was forced out of office by the military in 2013, had previously been sentenced to death in a separate case. He is appealing that sentence, as well as two others. Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood was deemed a terrorist organization and banned following his removal from office.

Saturday’s death sentences drew sharp criticism from Amnesty International, which demanded that they be thrown out. The organization called the charges against the journalists “ludicrous” and asked for them to be dropped.

Al Jazeera issued a statement denouncing and rejecting the verdicts, calling them “part of the ruthless campaign against freedom of speech and expression, in order to muzzle the voice of free press.”

Dr. Mostefa Souag, Acting Director General of Al Jazeera Media Network, added, “The sentence issued by the Egyptian Criminal court today is considered an entire failure for the justice and court system in Egypt; a country classified as one of the most dangerous places for journalists to work in. This sentence is only one of many politicized sentences that target Al Jazeera and its employees. They are illogical convictions and legally baseless.”