CAIRO, June 23 (UPI) -- An Egyptian court sentenced three Al Jazeera journalists to seven in prison for tailoring their news reports to support the Muslim Brotherhood.
The three -- Australian correspondent Peter Greste, Egyptian-Canadian bureau chief Mohamed Fahmy and Egyptian producer Baher Mohamed -- were all sentenced to seven years after being arrested last year after the fall of Mohamed Morsi's government. Baher Mohamed was given an additional three years for possession of ammunition.
The journalists were arrested last December from their hotel suite, which was being used as a makeshift newsroom, and charged for supporting a terrorist organization, the Muslim Brotherhood, and spreading false news.
The verdict has led to an international outcry with many correspondents covering the trial saying the evidence put forth in court did nothing to support the strong charges. In a statement issued after the verdict, Al-Jazeera's managing director Al Anstey said the sentence "defies logic, sense, and any semblance of justice."
Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop said her government was shocked at the severity of the punishment and that the Australian government was exploring further appeals.
"The Australian government simply cannot understand it given the evidence that was presented in the case," said Bishop.
"It's an unbelievable result. It's definitely not what I was expecting," said Andrew Greste, Peter Greste's brother.
The three were arrested during a crackdown on Muslim Brotherhood supporters last year. The ruling family of Qatar, which owns Al Jazeera, had supported Morsi's presidency and were seen as sympathetic to the Brotherhood. The news network's telecast of the dispersal of pro-Morsi protestors that left hundreds dead led to a perception in Egypt that the news network was biased toward the Brotherhood.
The court sentenced 11 others in absentia to 10 years and two others were acquitted.
The verdict comes just a day after U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry met with newly-elected President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi in Cairo to discuss the release of jailed journalists and restoration of freedoms in return for the resumption of military aid to the country, which was stopped after the ouster of Morsi last year.