CAIRO — Three Al-Jazeera English journalists charged with running a terrorist cell out of a luxurious Cairo hotel appeared in court for the first time Thursday, offering during two recesses detailed descriptions of their 54 days in jail, saying they had been denied outside information and allowed only limited exercise and that the prison system has become a breeding ground for militants.
No details about the case against them were presented in court, and the proceeding was adjourned until March 5. But the three journalists were able to shout their observations on Egypt's opaque prison system to other reporters in the room. Court officials made no effort to block the communications.
The journalists — Canadian-Egyptian Mohamed Fadel Fahmy, Australian Peter Greste and Egyptian Baher Mohammed — have been held since security forces raided their offices in the Marriott hotel Dec. 29 and charged them with putting out false information about Egypt and supporting the Muslim Brotherhood, the secretive organization through which ousted President Mohammed Morsi rose to power. The group has since been declared a terrorist organization.
The case has raised fears that the military-backed government that replaced Morsi is leading a crackdown on press freedoms.