Prosecutors in Cairo presented their closing arguments in the retrial of Canadian journalist Mohamed Fahmy on Monday, alleging the Al Jazeera English bureau chief and his colleagues were guilty of spreading false news to harm Egypt's national security and aiding a terrorist organization, as the long-running case that has sparked widespread condemnation inches closer to an end.
"We were expecting these kinds of absurd accusations and allegations that we've been accustomed to since the beginning of this trial," said Mr. Fahmy outside court in Cairo's sprawling Tora prison complex, where he spent more than a year behind bars on terror-related charges.
Among a litany of allegations brought by the prosecution during today's closing argument, lawyers claimed the journalists had added sound effects to video footage, including the sound of gun shots, despite the findings by a technical committee presented in a previous court session that the video evidence was all unedited raw footage.
With little evidence, the prosecutors also argued Al Jazeera English had instructed its journalists to film from an angle in Cairo's Tahrir Square that would show sexual harassment, in an attempt to tarnish Egypt's image abroad. Tahrir Square, the epicentre of the country's revolution, has been a flashpoint for mob sexual assaults that have been widely documented by local and international rights groups.
Mr. Fahmy, noting the prosecutor's assertion that they had labelled the events of June 30, 2013, when former president Mohamed Morsi was ousted from office, as a military coup, a term nearly all international media has used to refer to the events, said: "Again, this is not a reason to put people in prison."
In an effort to paint the journalist as part of an illegal underground terror cell, prosecutors also alleged Mr. Fahmy's Australian colleague Peter Greste, who was deported in January but risks being convicted in absentia due to the judge's refusal to remove him from the list of defendants, had carried large sums of money into the country.
Other foreign journalists involved in the case have also left the country, and also risk being convicted in absentia. Prosecutors claim the journalists were aiding a terrorist organization, and said the journalists had spoken to members and leaders of the Muslim Brotherhood.
"The prosecutor accused us of being professional journalists, of talking to people," said co-accused Egyptian producer Baher Mohamed, commenting on the allegations.
Lawyers for the prosecution said Al Jazeera had broken Egyptian laws by broadcasting illegally out of Cairo's Marriott hotel without licenses, a charge Mr. Fahmy has repeatedly said the network should be held to account for, not the journalists.
"There are some issues the network should take responsibility for, and that will be part of our defence," said Mr. Fahmy after the trial.
Mr. Fahmy has been lashing out at his employer, the Qatari-owned Al Jazeera network, accusing the network of grave negligence that placed the journalists in peril. Mr. Fahmy has said that the network kept the journalists in the dark about its lack of a broadcast license and expressed outrage that translated reports from Al Jazeera English were broadcast on Al Jazeera Mubasher Misr, the network's Egyptian affiliate that has been demonized in the Egyptian state and private media for its perceived pro-Muslim Brotherhood coverage, despite his warnings to management in Doha not to do so.
Sitting in front of a banner proclaiming, "Journalism is not political activism," Mr. Fahmy announced at a press conference last month that he had filed a lawsuit against Al Jazeera at the British Columbia Supreme Court on May 5 seeking $100-million in punitive and remedial damages for negligence, negligent misrepresentation and breach of contract.
Al Jazeera management has dismissed Mr. Fahmy's allegations, saying the Canadian journalist has been under stress as a result of his ordeal and expressed disappointment following the announcement of his lawsuit.
"It's what his captors want to hear at this stage of the retrial," Al Jazeera said in a statement. "All governments have news outlets that they don't like, but they don't use spurious grounds to put journalists in jail. If Fahmy wants to seek monetary compensation from anyone, it should be from his jailers."
The defence will begin their closing statements June 4, paving the way for a final verdict before the end of June.