A Cairo court on Monday adjourned the trial of three Al Jazeera television journalists by four days after hearing the prosecution’s closing argument that their reporting had endangered Egypt’s national security.
Australian journalist Peter Greste, who was released in February after 400 days in jail and deported, has not returned for the trial. The presiding judge only mentioned him once when reading out the names of the accused.
Mohamed Fahmy, a naturalised Canadian who gave up his Egyptian citizenship and Egyptian Baher Mohamed were present to hear the argument.
They heard that their meetings with members of the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood and use of the word ‘coup’ to describe the army’s July 2013 seizure of power had harmed the country.
The three were arrested in December 2013 and originally sentenced to between seven and 10 years in prison on charges, including spreading lies to help a terrorist organisation.
Egypt’s high court ordered a retrial in January and Fahmy and Mohamed were released on bail in February shortly after Greste was deported.
The three journalists, whose case prompted an international outcry, were arrested after several months of protests by Muslim Brotherhood supporters against the ousting of Islamist president Mohamed Morsi.
Egyptian authorities accuse Qatar-based Al Jazeera of being a mouthpiece of the Brotherhood, which was outlawed as a terrorist organisation after then army chief, Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, unseated Morsi following mass protests against his rule.
Al Jazeera denies the allegations. Greste told Reuters that he feared he would be found guilty in absentia at the retrial.
Egyptian courts usually declare absent defendants guilty as charged and give them the option of a retrial if they turn themselves in.