Sentencing of journalists in Egypt sparks global outrage

US Secretary of State John Kerry called Egyptian court's decision to sentence three journalists “draconian.”

Sentencing of journalists in Egypt sparks global outrage

World Bulletin / News Desk

An Egyptian court's decision to sentence three Al-Jazeera journalists to seven years has been widely condemned by the international community, with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry calling it “draconian.”

Al-Jazeera journalists Peter Greste, Mohamed Fahmy and Baher Mohammed were sentenced to seven years in prison by an Egyptian court for "falsifying news" and belonging to or assisting the banned Muslim Brotherhood. Mohamed was sentenced to a further three years for possessing a bullet casing.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry condemned the sentences one day after meeting with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al Sisi in Cairo, calling them “chilling” and “draconian.”

“Yesterday, President al-Sisi and I frankly discussed these issues and his objectives at the start of his term as President,” Kerry said in a statement released to the press. "I call on him to make clear, publicly, his government’s intention to observe Egypt’s commitment to the essential role of civil society, a free press, and the rule of law."

He further said that Egyptian authorities should “review all of the political sentences and verdicts pronounced during the last few years and consider all available remedies, including pardons.”

Kerry expressed the U.S.' concerns over the convictions and sentences during a telephone conversation with Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry on Monday.

Unfair trial

The UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon also expressed his deep concern over the recent court decisions in Egypt, particularly the confirmation of death sentences for 183 people and the sentencing of journalists.

"Proceedings that clearly appear not to meet basic fair trial standards, particularly those resulting in the imposition of the death penalty, are likely to undermine prospects for long-term stability," the UN chief's spokesperson said in New York.

Ban stressed that participation in peaceful protests or criticism of the government should not be grounds for detention or prosecution.

In addition to the three Al-Jazeera journalists, the Egyptian court also tried 11 more people in absentia and handed them up to ten years of jail term. The 11 people included Dutch journalist Rena Netjes, Cairo correspondent for the Dutch daily Parool.

Dutch Foreign Minister Frans Timmermans said that Egypt was acting contrary to the international obligations and Netjes did not get a fair trial.

In a separate case, a court on Monday sentenced 78 supporters of ousted president Morsi to life imprisonment for murder and inciting violence in the Nile Delta city of Mansoura in August.

Egyptian authorities have waged a wide-ranging crackdown against members of the Muslim Brotherhood since July, when Morsi was ousted and imprisoned by the army.

Australia summons Egyptian diplomat

Australia summoned a senior Egyptian diplomat on Tuesday to protest against the sentencing of an Australian reporter, one of three Al Jazeera journalists jailed for seven years by an Egyptian judge in a verdict that left his family "shattered".

A spokeswoman for Foreign Minister Julie Bishop said Bishop had called in the deputy Egyptian ambassador so that Australia could continue to "express their disappointment". She did not have further details about the meeting. The Egyptian ambassador to Australia is in Cairo.

Greste's parents told a news conference in Brisbane on Tuesday their son was not a criminal.

"This man, our son, Peter, is an award-winning journalist. He is not a criminal," said his father, Juris Greste.

"To us, it is not just affecting the Greste family. We put it to you that it is also a slap in the face and a kick in the groin to Australia, as well as all fair-minded people around the world," he said.

Despite the growing outcry, Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott struck a cautious tone on Tuesday, somewhat softening his government's furious initial reaction.

"I do understand that once the court system has done its work, there are options for presidential acts - presidential clemency, presidential pardons and so on - and that's why I'm not in the business of being critical of the government as such," Abbott told reporters in Canberra.

"What we don't want to do is engage in unhelpful megaphone diplomacy because that won't do Peter Greste any good, it won't do his two Al Jazeera colleagues any good," he said.

The verdict has caused outrage within Australia, with at least one senior politician going so far as to raise the possibility of levelling sanctions against Egypt government, something Abbott's government has so far ruled out.

Senator Christine Milne, the leader of the small opposition Greens Party, warned against putting faith in an Egyptian judicial system she said has already been "shown to be a joke".

"I think our best hope is for President (Abdel Fattah) al-Sisi to intervene and pardon the journalists concerned and let them leave the country but, in order for pressure to build on Egypt, I think we should consider sanctions," she said.

Last Mod: 24 Haziran 2014, 11:44
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