The trial against 19 journalists in Egypt signals a new low point in developments in the country says Dutch Member of the European Parliament Marietje Schaake (ALDE/D66). The public prosecutor has asked the maximum penalties: between 15 and 25 years in prison. The journalists on trial include the Australian Peter Greste and the Dutch Rena Netjes, who is being tried in absentia as she was able to flee the country earlier this year. Schaake: "The developments in Egypt are extremely worrying and this trial shows how much the freedom of expression is under pressure. The regime does not shy away from attacking Western journalists directly with false accusations."
Since the fall of Morsi, last year, the Egyptian interim regime has waged a brutal campaign to repress every form of criticism against it. In the first place, it was aimed against the Muslim Brotherhood. During actions by the army, hundreds died. Schaake: "The election of General el-Sisi, last week, appears to have been a step back in times towards the Mubarak era. Journalists, activists and citizens who speak their mind online, run the risk of intimidation, persecution or jail. The regime is violating the very rights and freedoms which lay at the foundations of the revolution against Mubarak."
Schaake wants the European Union to use clear language and adopt a coherent strategy towards Egypt. In the first place, the ongoing trial against journalists should be strongly condemned. Schaake: "It needs to be crystal clear that these kinds of trials and the general repression of freedom of expression are completely unacceptable for the EU. It does not work when EU foreign policy chief Ashton says that human rights are important, but warmly congratulates el-Sisi with his elections on the other." Schaake sent a letter to Ashton today, to aks her what she plans to do about the trial and how she aims to help the journalists.