Canadian journalist says Egypt prison conditions 'psychologically unbearable'
Published Thursday, February 20, 2014 9:12AM EST
Last Updated Thursday, February 20, 2014 11:06AM EST
An Egyptian-Canadian journalist shouted out in a Cairo courtroom Thursday that he and fellow journalists face "psychologically unbearable" conditions in prison.
Mohamed Fahmy shouted to reporters that his and his fellow imprisoned journalists have no access to books or newspapers, are allowed only one hour of exercise a day, and that prison officials monitor all family visits.
Fahmy call came as he and several other journalists pleaded not guilty to charges of belonging to and aiding a terrorist organization.
Fahmy, Al Jazeera English’s acting bureau chief in Cairo, was taken into custody on Dec. 29 along with two colleagues. They are among 20 Al Jazeera employees who have now been arrested in recent months and charged with terrorism-related offences in Egypt.
Authorities accuse Al Jazeera network of being biased toward ousted Islamist President Mohammed Morsi and his Muslim Brotherhood, an Islamist group.
Al Jazeera denies bias.
Only eight of the defendants were present in the Cairo courtroom Thursday. The rest will be tried in absentia.
Mohamed Fahmy’s brother Adel says Thursday’s session was brief.
“What happened, basically, is the accusations were read out again, the lawyers asked for bail, and the session was adjourned until March 5,” he told CTV News Channel from Cairo.
Adel called the charges “very ridiculous” and “completely false” and said that Al Jazeera English is separate from other Jazeera channels.
“Jazeera English is very objective and they cover both sides of the story very fairly,” he said.
As for how his brother is holding up, Adel says Mohamed is handling it well.
“My brother is in good morale. He is coping and is very strong, especially since they moved him to a better prison with some privileges,” he said.
“That was two weeks ago. It’s a better prison where it’s not solitary confinement. He’s with his two colleagues, they’re getting better food and more than one set of clothes.”
With reports from The Canadian Press