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July 24, 2017

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Australia journalist on trial in Egypt claims 'injustice'

CAIRO--An Australian journalist with the Al-Jazeera broadcaster on trial in Egypt on Saturday described his ordeal as a "massive injustice," after spending more than four months in jail.

The award-winning Peter Greste is on trial with 19 co-defendants, including five Al-Jazeera journalists, for allegedly defaming the country and ties to the blacklisted Muslim Brotherhood.

Saturday's hearing coincided with World Press Freedom Day.

"We recognize the significance of the coincidence of this trial falling on World Press Freedom Day. This is a very clear message," Greste said from his caged dock at the court in Cairo.

Greste, a Peabody Award-winning journalist who previously worked with the BBC, also branded the trial "a massive injustice, regardless of the outcome."

Most of the defendants are being tried in absentia.

The Al-Jazeera journalists in the dock along with Greste are the Qatar-owned broadcaster's English channel Cairo bureau chief Mohamed Fahmy and producer Baher Mohamed.

Their trial comes against the backdrop of strained relations between Cairo and Qatar, which supports the Muslim Brotherhood movement of deposed Islamist president Mohammed Morsi.

It has sparked an international outcry and calls for the release of the journalists, while Cairo insists the trial does not presage a wider crackdown on journalists.

In a letter from prison on published Friday, Mohamed Fahmy said he was on trial for only doing his job.

"I write you this letter on World Press Freedom Day from my cell after 126 days of incarceration for doing nothing more than the job I love," wrote the Canadian-Egyptian dual citizen.

The judge on Saturday adjourned the trial to May 15.

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