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Egypt. Three reporters accused of spying for Qatar were recommended for the death penalty on Sunday.

Death sentences for journalists show Egyptian regime’s new target

A Cairo court on Sunday sentenced six people to death, accused of spying for Qatar. Among them are three journalists tried in absentia: Asmaa Mohamed al-Khatib, of the Rasd news agency linked to the Muslim Brotherhood, and two Al Jazeera journalists, producer Alaa Mohammed Omar and chief editor Ibrahim Mohammed Hilal. Now the process goes to the Grand Mufti, the most prestigious Sunni religious figure, who will express his opinion, which is not binding but is generally respected by the criminal courts.

The Al Jazeera newsroom has been subject to a web of charges from the military regime since July 2013. The prosecutor alleges that classified documents concerning the military and intelligence services were sent from the journalists to the government in Doha in exchange for money.

The six are charged in the same process in which President Mohammed Morsi, a member of the Muslim Brotherhood, is indicted. However, his sentence was postponed again, this time to June 18, after the Grand Mufti’s response. Another delay in the process for Morsi. If the former dictator Hosni Mubarak and his entourage were routinely acquitted of all charges brought against them after a 30-year regime, the only democratically elected president in Egypt already has a death sentence, a life sentence and 20 years in prison hanging over his head.

So, the two main targets of Abdel Fattah el-Sisi’s repression are the Muslim Brotherhood and the press. If Interior Minister Magdy Abdel Ghaffar won’t respond to media pressure, the parliamentarians are split between those who criticize the behavior of the Ministry and those who support it. But the parliamentary committee for media and culture is taking the toughest stance. Its president, Ghada Sakr, appealed for a boycott of Egyptian newspapers arrayed against the government.

Meanwhile, Malek Adly, head of the Egyptian Center for Economic and Social Rights, remains in prison. So does Zizo Abdo, a member of the April 6 Youth Movement, who was arrested Thursday night. The first information about their conditions arrived Sunday: Adly’s colleague, Mahmoud Bilal, and his lawyer, Sameh Samir, declared to the independent agency Mada Masr that the two have irrefutable evidence of violence on their bodies. Samir had met them at the Maadi police station, a few hours after the arrest. During the interrogation, the following day, Malek Ably was asked to express an opinion on Giulio Regeni’s case and the shooting down of the Russian plane and in October.

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