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Detained Egyptian cameraman Mohammed Badr acquitted

The International Press Institute (IPI) today welcomed the acquittal of Egyptian television cameraman Mohammed Badr more than six months after he was detained by security forces for allegedly carrying a weapon.

Badr was acquitted yesterday along with 60 others arrested during a clash with security police on July 16, 2013. However, it was unclear when Badr would be released from jail.

The verdict from a Cairo criminal court came just days after IPI made an emergency, fact-finding visit to the Egyptian capital to address the detention of journalists and to investigate general concerns about the safety of media workers. The ruling also came four days after Egypt's public prosecutor announced that 20 journalists working for Al Jazeera would face trial on charges of terrorism and spreading false news.

Badr is employed by Mubasher Misr, the Egyptian affiliate of Al Jazeera that has been banned from the country, but continues to broadcast from outside Egypt. The cameraman's lawyers told IPI that he was accused of carrying a handgun in his equipment bag while covering last July's clashes in Ramses Square, a charge they have consistently denied.

"We welcome the court's decision to clear Mohammed Badr of all charges," IPI Executive Director Alison Bethel McKenzie said. "Now we hope the judges will similarly exercise their independence and recognise the absurdity of the charges brought against the 20 foreign and Egyptian journalists, some of whom face terrorism charges. We strongly believe these accusations are part of a determined effort to intimidate the news media and scare them away from doing their jobs."

Of the 20 Al Jazeera journalists charged on Jan. 29, 16 are accused of joining a terrorist group and face up to 15 years in prison; four face charges of spreading false news and face up to three years in prison. Four of the accused are foreigners.

An IPI delegation including four members of IPI's executive board travelled to Cairo from Jan 26 to 29 to meet with government representatives - including the country's foreign minister, Nabil Fahmy, and the chairman of the State Information System, Ambassador Salah A. El-Sadek - as well as lawyers, journalists and human rights groups to assess the state of press freedom in the country.

IPI will release a report on the findings of its visit to Egypt in the coming weeks.

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