The retrial of two Al-Jazeera English journalists who face terror-related charges in Egypt has been postponed to March 19.
The decision Sunday comes after witnesses fail to show for a hearing for acting bureau chief Mohamed Fahmy and Egyptian producer Baher Mohammed. The two were freed last month awaiting trial, though they’ve had to check in with police daily. Their first hearing on Feb. 23 also was postponed.
Two key police witnesses that the judge had asked to be brought forward did not show up, according to the CBC’s Sasa Petricic. The judge fined the two some $60 each for not being there.
“It is not unusual in Egypt for strange things to happen during court cases — for things to be delayed, bureaucratic issues to come up and things to drag on for weeks, months, maybe even years,” said Petricic.
“But on the other hand, there were signals that the government, prosecution and the judge wanted to speed things along, to get this done, out of the way.”
Fahmy expressed frustration at the development.
“We come here and we respect the court but it’s very unusual that the witnesses don’t come twice in a row,” Fahmy said in Cairo. “I see it as an insult to the judiciary here and it’s really a legal limbo and we’re caught in it.”
The two, arrested in December 2013, face charges accusing them of being part of a terrorist group and airing falsified footage intended to damage national security. Al-Jazeera is based in Qatar, a main backer of ousted Islamist President Mohammed Morsi’s outlawed Muslim Brotherhood group.
Human rights organizations and media groups have criticized the trial. Australian journalist Peter Greste, also charged in the case, was deported in February.