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Egypt military court sentences Sinai journalist to 10 years

Ismail Alexandrani, an expert on militant groups in Sinai, had been in pretrial detention for more than two years
Egypt is the world's third largest jailer of journalists, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists (AFP)

An Egyptian military court has sentenced Ismail Alexandrani, a prominent journalist and expert on militant movements in the Sinai peninsula, to 10 years in prison, his lawyer and a military judicial official said.

Alexandrani, who was arrested in November 2015, was accused of publishing military secrets and belonging to the banned Muslim Brotherhood, his lawyer Tarek Abdel Aal told AFP Tuesday.

He was also charged with spreading information that could harm national security outside the country in interviews with the media and in articles, his lawyer added.

Alexandrani's supporters argued that the journalist's writings were critical of the Muslim Brotherhood.

Abdel Aal said they will appeal the verdict.

Alexandrani has been in pretrial detention for two and a half years since his arrest in the Red Sea resort of Hurghada after he returned from a work trip in Berlin.

An analyst on militant organisations in North Sinai, where security forces are fighting the Islamic State (IS) group, Alexandrani had been to Germany to deliver lectures on the political situation in Egypt, his wife Khadija Gaafar had said at the time.

Alexandrani was also known for his anti-government writings and for criticising the military's role in Egyptian politics. He was a contributor to several publications including the French online magazine Orient XXI, which confirmed his sentencing on Twitter.

Co-defendant Walid Mohareb was also sentenced to 10 years in prison in the same trial, which included 18 others tried in absentia, Abdel Aal said.

The verdict "exemplifies the government’s vicious retaliation against journalists who report on sensitive issues," Human Rights Watch Middle East director Sarah Leah Whitson said in an emailed statement.

"It’s also a reminder that the government seeks to keep army abuses of Sinai residents away from media scrutiny," she said.

Human rights groups accuse President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi of leading a crackdown on journalists and dissidents.

The Committee to Protect Journalists, a New York-based watchdog, denounced the sentence, noting that Egypt is "the world's third largest jailer of journalists".

"Hauling a journalist before a military court not only violates his rights as a civilian but sends a chilling message to the media that independent coverage of political dissent and security threats will not be tolerated by Egypt's rulers," CPJ deputy executive director Robert Mahoney said in a statement. 

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