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Evidence a joke, says family of Canadian journalist jailed in Egypt

Al-Jazeera English bureau chief Mohamed Fahmy, center, producer Baher Mohamed, center left, and correspondent Peter Greste, second right, stand in a courtroom along with several other defendants during their trial on terror charges, in Cairo, Egypt, March 31, 2014.
Al-Jazeera English bureau chief Mohamed Fahmy, center, producer Baher Mohamed, center left, and correspondent Peter Greste, second right, stand in a courtroom along with several other defendants during their trial on terror charges, in Cairo, Egypt, March 31, 2014. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP - Sarah El Deeb

TORONTO – When Mohamed Fahmy’s family walked into the Cairo courtroom for the Canadian journalist’s latest court appearance on Thursday, they were relieved to see a projector and screen set-up.

It meant that after three months, the prosecution was finally going to present the evidence it said proved that Fahmy and his Al Jazeera English colleagues, Australian Peter Greste and Egyptian Baher Mohamed, spread misinformation about Egypt and aided terrorists.

But, as videos began to play the mood in the courtroom quickly turned to shock.

READ MORE: Canadian journalist imprisoned in Egypt loses full use of arm

The first, was a documentary produced by another station, Sky News Arabia, about horses and horse welfare in Egypt. It appeared to be taken from equipment owned by Baher Mohamed. Next, came a video with footage taken from a press conference after the mall attack in Kenya last year. And finally, a video from when Greste worked for the BBC, with excerpts from a Panorama documentary about Somalia.

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In fact, none of the videos shown as evidence Thursday were even produced by Al Jazeera English, nor did they seem to have anything to do with case.

“It was very, very bizarre,” Fahmy’s brother Adel told Global News, adding that these videos were followed by some pictures of Greste’s parents, which appeared to be taken from Greste’s hard drive.

Fahmy was visibly frustrated after seeing the videos, according to his brother, and lashed out at the judge, accusing the government of incompetence and unnecessary delays in the case.

“There is nothing at all that justifies their incarceration for that long. That is the most frustrating thing, that they’re paying the price for nothing,” Adel said.

Even the judge was shocked, Adel added, “After all of this, this is what the prosecution has presented.

“Even our lawyer told the judge, he was positive that the prosecution hasn’t even seen the footage, hasn’t seen the evidence.”

Fahmy, who also holds Egyptian citizenship, and his colleagues have spent more than 100 days in jail, in a case that is seen globally as an attack on press freedom.

READ MORE: Egyptian president writes to family of Canadian journalist imprisoned in Cairo

They were arrested in their hotel room on Dec. 29 and are facing a range of charges along with several others for allegedly having ties to the Muslim Brotherhood.

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During Thursday’s trial, one of the other defendants, a student who has been on hunger strike for several days to protest his detention, fainted in the prisoner’s cage and had to be removed from the courtroom.

Thursday’s court appearance lasted about two and a half hours and then the case was put over until April 22.

Prosecutors said the remaining footage in the case could not be shown in court for technical reasons and the judge said the rest of the videos would be viewed outside court by a committee including the defence lawyer, but not the defendants.

Several countries, including the United States, Britain and Australia have condemned the journalists’ imprisonment as an attack on press freedom.

Fahmy has been receiving consular assistance from the Canadian Embassy in Cairo, but so far the Canadian government has not spoken out publicly about his imprisonment.

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