Al Jazeera journalist Abdullah Al-Shamy (centre) is seen in a holding cage during an appearance in court in Cairo. File picture: Hamada Elrasam

Johannesburg - The charges against three journalists who were convicted and sentenced by an Egyptian court are a political ploy by the country's government to get back at its enemies.

“The three men have become political fodder in the government's crackdown on Islamists and the Muslim Brotherhood,” the Cape Town Press Club's co-chairman Donwald Pressly said on Tuesday.

A Cairo court sentenced the Al-Jazeera journalists for aiding the blacklisted Muslim Brotherhood movement and “spreading false news”.

Award-winning Australian journalist Peter Greste and Egyptian-Canadian Mohamed Fadel Fahmy were sentenced to seven years in jail on Monday, while producer Baher Mohamed was handed 10 years.

Agence France-Presse (AFP) reported that the Egyptian authorities were angered by Al-Jazeera's coverage of ousted Islamist president Mohamed Morsi and his supporters.

Since Morsi was ousted in July last year, more than 1400 people have been killed and about 15 000 were jailed in a government crackdown in Egypt.

“The Cape Town Press Club adds its voice to the international community's disgust at their treatment, and calls for the conviction to be set aside and for the three men to be set free,” said Pressly.