Report: Egypt sets Feb. 20 for Al-Jazeera trial

CAIRO (AP) — Egypt's state agency said Monday that judicial authorities have set Feb. 20 as the starting date for the trial of 20 people, including four foreigners, they say worked for the Qatar-based Al-Jazeera network.

Charges include joining a terrorist group, aiding a terrorist group, and endangering national security. The Middle East News Agency said Cairo Appeals Court head Nabil Salib set the date for the trial before the Cairo Criminal Court.

It says eight are in detention while 12 others will be tried in absentia. Al-Jazeera has consistently denied the charges, saying its journalists were only doing their jobs. The network says only nine of those named were on its staff.

Defendants include Al-Jazeera English acting bureau chief in Cairo Mohammed Fahmy, a Canadian-Egyptian, award-winning correspondent Peter Greste of Australia and producer Baher Mohamed, an Egyptian. The government claims the channel has helped Egypt's largest Islamist group, the Muslim Brotherhood, which it has designated terrorist. The Brotherhood denies it practices violence.

The trial marks the first time Egypt prosecutes journalists on terrorism-related charges. It comes amid an extensive crackdown on the Brotherhood as well as some secular dissidents.

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