Egypt court sets date for ruling on Al Jazeera journalists

Three Qatar TV network reporters on trial on charges of aiding the Muslim Brotherhood

An Egyptian court said on Monday it would rule on June 23 in the case involving three Al Jazeera journalists on trial for more than five months on charges of aiding the Muslim Brotherhood, which the state has labelled a "terrorist organisation".

The trio - Peter Greste, an Australian, Mohamed Fahmy, a Canadian-Egyptian national, and Baher Mohamed, an Egyptian - deny the charges and Al Jazeera has said the accusations are absurd.

Human rights groups say the case shows authorities are trampling on freedom of expression. But Egyptian officials have said the trial is not linked to freedom of expression and that the journalists raised suspicions by operating without proper accreditation.

The crackdown on dissent has raised questions about Egypt's democratic credentials three years after an uprising toppled veteran autocratic president Hosni Mubarak and raised hopes of greater freedoms.

Mohamed Mursi, a Brotherhood leader, was elected president in 2012, but the army toppled him a year later following mass protests against his rule. The general who led his ousting, Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, was elected president last month.

Both state and private Egyptian media have fanned anti-Brotherhood sentiment, suggesting anyone associated with the veteran movement is a traitor and threat to national security.

Qatar, a Gulf Arab monarchy that funds Al Jazeera, backs the Brotherhood, a position that has strained its ties with Egypt and other Gulf Arab states since Mursi's ousting last July.

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