The Foreign Minister, Julie Bishop, says the Australian government is shocked by the 7-year jail sentence imposed on the Australian journalist, Peter Greste, in Egypt today.
Greste is one of three of Qatar-based Al Jazeera journalists who have been held in prison in Egypt for over six months. They were charged with endangering national security, aiding terrorists, doctoring footage, operating without a licence, and “spreading false news”. They were specifically charged with aiding the Muslim Brotherhood, a blacklisted organisation.
Greste and a colleague were each sentenced to 7 years. A third colleague was sentence to 10 years.
Bishop said the Australian government has been pressuring the Egyptian government for months on the Greste case. She said she wanted to explore options with the Egyptian government and to work with neighbouring countries that may be able to exert influence.
“We simply cannot understand how a court can come to this conclusion,” Bishop said. She said the government had made representations at the highest levels of the Egyptians government. “I cannot think of what else we could have done.”
Bishop said the case was complex and it seemed that Greste happened to be “in the wrong place at the wrong time”.
The Foreign Minister was careful not to criticise the Egyptian government or the judiciary, despite widespread belief that the trial was fundamentally flawed. She held out hope that the case will now proceed to an appeal.
The Media, Arts and Entertainment Alliance, the union for journalists, said: “The verdict of the court, despite the lack of evidence and bizarre court proceedings over more than a dozen hearings, is an appalling attack on press freedom and carries an implicit threat to all media working in Egypt.”
- Listen to Bishop’s press conference (16m)
- Watch Peter Greste’s parents receive the news about their son (29s)
Statement from the Leader of the Australian Greens, Senator Christine Milne.
Greste’s shocking show trial, PM Abbott must put all diplomatic options on the table – Milne
Greens Leader Christine Milne says the Prime Minister should immediately intervene with the Egyptian President and consider all diplomatic options regardless of any avenues of appeal being followed by the Greste legal team.
“This has been a shocking show trial. It is a terrible day, not only for Peter Greste and his family but for the free press across the world,” Senator Milne said.
“I have zero confidence in the integrity of the Egyptian legal system that has imprisoned journalists for reporting the news, and which sentences protesters to death.
“Prime Minister Tony Abbott and Australia must now lead international action to intervene with the Egyptian government to secure the release of Peter Greste and void this ridiculous verdict.
“All diplomatic options, including sanctions, should be on the table.
“If Egypt wants any hope of re-joining the international community with any standing or respect, it must stand for a free press and release Peter Greste and his colleagues immediately.”