Lawyers quit on detained Aussie journalist

Farag Fathi, lawyer for Al-Jazeera's Australian correspondent Peter Greste (background in cage) prepares to leave the court as he decided to quit the case. Photo / AFP
Farag Fathi, lawyer for Al-Jazeera's Australian correspondent Peter Greste (background in cage) prepares to leave the court as he decided to quit the case. Photo / AFP

The main defence lawyers of Australian journalist Peter Greste and another Al Jazeera reporter being tried in Cairo have quit, accusing the satellite news station that employs them of working against Egypt.

Greste, watching proceedings from the caged dock, appeared taken aback when his lawyers announced to the judge that they were dropping the case, which has sparked international concern for the detained reporters.

The Australian is on trial with four other journalists for the Qatar-based broadcaster on charges of aiding the blacklisted Muslim Brotherhood and defaming Egypt.

Only three of the journalists are in prison, along with six other defendants in the case. The rest of the 20 defendants are abroad or in hiding.

In Thursday's session, lead defence lawyer Farag Fathy said he and two colleagues also representing producer Baher Mohamed would no longer represent the reporters.

"Al Jazeera is using my clients. I have emails from (the channel) telling me they don't care about the defendants and care about insulting Egypt," Fathy told the court.

He accused the Qatari channel in its coverage of the trial of "fabricating quotes" and attributing them to him.

An Al Jazeera spokesman said: "The lawyer who made an outburst in court today made his position on the team untenable.

"We now have the best legal representation working in harmony, focused on getting our journalists out of jail."

Greste earlier told reporters from the dock: "I am baffled. This is the first time we have heard of this problem."

Egypt's military-installed authorities have been incensed by Al Jazeera's coverage of their crackdown on supporters of ousted Islamist president Mohamed Morsi, overthrow by the army in July.

The trial was adjourned until May 22.

Meanwhile, another Al Jazeera journalist with its main Arabic channel, Abdullah Elshamy, has had his appeal against a detention extension of 45 days rejected.

Elshamy, who has been on hunger strike since January in protest at his detention, appeared gaunt in the dock and told reporters he was placed in solitary confinement in the maximum security wing of Cairo's Torah prison.

Amnesty International has called for Elshamy's immediate and unconditional release.

"By placing a hunger-striker in solitary confinement, instead of transferring him to a hospital or allowing him to see a doctor, the Egyptian authorities are deliberately putting his life and health at risk," it said.

- AFP

© Copyright 2014, APN New Zealand Limited

Assembled by: (static) on red akl_a1 at 23 Sep 2014 12:51:21 Processing Time: 712ms