Al-Jazeera trio get seven years jail

CAIRO - Three al-Jazeera journalists accused of supporting the Muslim Brotherhood have been jailed for seven years in Egypt.

A court in Cairo convicted Peter Greste, Mohammed Fahmy and Baher Mohamed of spreading false news and supporting the banned Islamist group. The trio had denied the charges.

Nine defendants tried in absentia, including three foreign journalists, received 10-year sentences.

The trial has caused an international outcry amid claims it is politicised.

Earlier, the Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott made a direct appeal to Egyptian President Abdul Fattah al-Sisi for the release of Mr Greste, a former BBC correspondent.

The three al-Jazeera journalists, who have been detained in Egypt for the past six months, were each sentenced to seven years in jail.

Mr Mohamed sentenced to a further three years in jail on a separate charge involving possession of weapons.

Al-Jazeera has said only nine of the 20 defendants are its employees.

The others are reportedly students and activists, two of whom were acquitted in Monday's verdict.

It comes amid concerns over growing media restrictions in Egypt.

Mr Fahmy and Mr Mohamed were among 16 Egyptians charged with belonging to a terrorist organisation and "harming national unity".

Mr Greste and three other journalists who have left the country - British al-Jazeera reporters Dominic Kane and Sue Turton, and the Dutch newspaper and radio journalist Rena Netjes - were accused of "collaborating with the Egyptians by providing them with money, equipment, information", and "airing false news".

The Qatar-based network al-Jazeera is banned from operating inside Egypt after the authorities accused it of broadcasting reports sympathetic to former President Mohammed Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood. Al-Jazeera has consistently denied the allegations.

Qatar has supported the Brotherhood and is unpopular with Egypt's government.

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