Jon Stewart Has a Powerful Message for Egypt's Government on the Jailing of Al Jazeera Journalists
The sham: On Monday night, Jon Stewart turned the Daily Show machine on the insanity of Egyptian courts, which had just sentenced three Al-Jazeera "terror journalists" to seven years in prison.
"This trial was a sham," Stewart said. "A sham so shammy, Egypt's prosecution couldn't be bothered to even pretend it wasn't a sham."
He couldn't be more right. During the trial, the men appeared in court locked up in cages. The prosecution built their case on ludicrous evidence, including footage of sheep and trotting horses, as well as photos of one journalist's parents vacationing in Latvia. Not only was this not proof of any misconduct by the suspects, but it merely added to the trial's facade of justice.
On Monday, a judge delivered the sentences to Australian Peter Greste, a former BBC correspondent, Canadian-Egyptian ex-CNN producer Mohamed Fahmy and local producer Baher Mohamed after they were arrested in December for "[disseminating] false information and [consorting] with the Muslim Brotherhood, now a banned terror organization," according to the Huffington Post.
Stewart's video comes on the heels of two timely Egyptian news items.
First: Hours before the Al-Jazeera journos were convicted, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry was in Egypt meeting with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi to "fully restore U.S. military aid to Cairo," according to Time.
During the Sisi-led military coup in July 2013, the U.S. temporarily suspended its annual military aid of $1.5 billion to Egypt. But Kerry's arrival in Cairo on Sunday signaled U.S. desire to reinitiate its strategic partnership with Egypt, despite Sisi's "phony" campaign and continued dictatorship.
Second: On June 21, an Egyptian court recommended 183 death sentences out of 683 defendants in the case of the August 2013 deaths of two policemen. As with the journalists' case, the defendants were not awarded any due process rights.
Additionally, on June 23, prosecutors in Egypt renewed the "detention of 23 activists arrested on June 21 at a Cairo protest," according to Human Rights Watch. The activists were arrested for demonstrating against an Egyptian law that bans forms of protesting. According to that law, police are allowed to use force to break up protests, and the courts can set extreme prison sentences for things like "attempting to influence the course of justice."
Why should you care? Because the U.S. is close to formally reinstating ties with Egypt and its head of state, a dictator whose government ignores inconvenient guiding principles founded in justice.
Kerry said that Fahmy, Greste and Mohamed received "chilling, draconian" sentences. "Egyptian society is stronger and sustainable when all of its citizens have a say and a stake in its success," he said. "Today's verdicts fly in the face of the essential role of civil society, a free press and the real rule of law."