Trial of al-Jazeera reporters resumes in Egypt

Al-Jazeera journalist Peter Greste (c) and his colleagues inside the defendants cage Al-Jazeera journalist Peter Greste (c) and his colleagues inside the defendants cage

The trial of al-Jazeera journalists accused of joining or aiding a terrorist group has resumed in Egypt.

One asked the judge to free him on bail so he could receive medical treatment.

In all, 20 people - including former BBC correspondent Peter Greste - are on trial, 12 of them in absentia. Al-Jazeera says only nine of the defendants are among its employees.

They all deny supporting the Muslim Brotherhood, which was designated a terrorist organisation in December.

The trial is widely seen as a test of Egypt's military-backed interim government and its attitude to freedom of the press.

Adel Fahmy says the charges against his brother Mohamed Fahmy are "absurd"

'Torture'

At Wednesday's hearing, six defendants, including Mr Greste and al-Jazeera's Canadian-Egyptian Cairo bureau chief Mohamed Fadel Fahmy, appeared in a caged dock wearing white prison uniforms.

Mr Fahmy, who was arrested along with Mr Greste and Egyptian producer Baher Mohamed at the end of December, told the court his right shoulder "has been broken for 10 weeks and I sleep on the floor" in a cell.

"I ask you to free me on the guarantee from the Canadian embassy that I will not leave the country," he added.

Another defendant, student union official Soheib Said, said he had faced "physical and psychological torture" and had "asked to be checked [by a doctor] but nobody answered."

Before the hearing began, Mr Mohamed shouted: "Journalists are not terrorists."

Andrew Greste said it was "remarkable" how well his brother Peter was coping with the conditions in prison

The government and its supporters have accused international news networks of bias in their reporting of the ongoing political crisis.

Earlier this week, an Egyptian government minister told the BBC that it was a "mistake" to put the al-Jazeera journalists on trial but insisted that they had broken the law.

Mounir Fakhry Abdel Nour, the minister for Investment and Foreign Trade, told BBC Newshour: "This is a big mistake. But even journalists have to abide by the law of the land."

Last week, people in cities across the world attended protests in support of the journalists.

They demanded the release of Mr Greste, an Australian al-Jazeera English reporter, Mr Fahmy, Mr Mohamed and Egyptian al-Jazeera Arabic reporter Abdallah Elshamy.

The first three were seized in a raid at a Cairo hotel on 29 December, while Mr Elshamy was detained in the Egyptian capital on 14 August.

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

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

Those present at the start of the trial pleaded not guilty to all charges.

Al-Jazeera cameraman Mohamed Badr was released last month after seven months in detention.

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