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US condemns Egypt's sentencing of Al-Jazeera journalists

Washington: Strongly condemning the verdicts rendered against three Al-Jazeera journalists and 15 others in Egypt, the US has said such prosecutions are fundamentally incompatible with the basic precepts of human rights and represent a 'blow to democratic progress'.

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"The US strongly condemns the verdicts rendered against three Al-Jazeera journalists and 15 other defendants today in Egypt," said White House Press Secretary, Josh Earnest yesterday.

"The prosecution of journalists for reporting information that does not coincide with the government of Egypt's narrative flouts the most basic standards of media freedom and represents a blow to democratic progress in Egypt," he said.

Noting that democracy is about more than elections, he said, a true democracy requires thriving democratic institutions, including a vibrant free press that is empowered to hold the government accountable to the people.

He said the most disturbing part of the verdict was the "succession of prosecutions and verdicts that are fundamentally incompatible with the basic precepts of human rights and democratic governance".

"These include the prosecution of peaceful protesters and critics of the government and a series of summary death sentences and trials that failed to achieve even a semblance of due process," he said.

He said the victims in these cases were not just the defendants and journalists, but the Egyptian people who have courageously asserted their demand for the fundamental freedoms to which all are entitled to.

"We call on the Egyptian government to pardon these individuals or commute their sentences so that they can be released immediately and grant clemency for all politically-motivated sentences, starting with the other defendants in this trial," he said.

"The United States will continue to stand with the Egyptian people as they seek to realise the rights for which they have long struggled," he said.

Meanwhile UN Secretary General, Ban Ki-Moon, expressed his deep concern over recent court decisions in Egypt, particularly the confirmation of death sentences for 183 people and the sentencing of journalists.

Proceedings that clearly appear not to meet basic fair trial standards, particularly those resulting in the imposition of the death penalty, are likely to undermine prospects for long-term stability, said a statement issued by his spokesperson.
Ban noted that the constitutionality of the law regulating protest will be reviewed by the Supreme Constitutional Court.
"He recalls that both he and the High Commissioner for Human Rights expressed concerns that the law could lead to serious breaches of the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and needed to be brought in conformity with Egypt's international human rights obligations," the UN statement said.

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