Al-Jazeera journalists jailed: Protests planned day after Egypt's 'appalling' sentencing of journalists for 'links to terror group'
Family of Australian-born Peter Greste say they are 'shattered' by the decision
Tuesday 24 June 2014
Journalists are to protest today over the jailing in Egypt of colleagues from Al Jazeera which has provoked outrage around the world.
Staff from the BBC and other news organisations will hold a one minute silent protest outside New Broadcasting House in London at 09.41, the time of yesterday's sentencing. Hundreds are expected to attend, the BBC said.
The sentencing of Australian-born Peter Greste, Canadian-Egyptian acting Cairo bureau chief Mohammed Fahmy, and Egyptian producer Baher Mohammed to seven years each for charges relating to terrorism, met with widespread condemnation, not least from David Cameron who said he was “appalled”.
The imprisonment of the journalists on charges relating to terrorism provoked Foreign Secretary William Hague to summon the Egyptian ambassador in London for a meeting yesterday.
Further support has also come from The New York Times, which dedicated its entire back page on Sunday to the journalists.
Leaving the page blank, the only words scrawled atop it were: "This is what happens when you silence journalists. Show your support," in addition to a #FreeAJStaff Twitter hashtag and a "Journalism is not a crime" stamp.
The journalists were arrested in December as part of a crackdown on Islamist supporters of ousted President Mohammed Morsi.
There were 14 other co-defendants in the case, including two British journalists, Sue Turton and Dominic Kane. Eight being tried in absentia each received 10-year prison sentences.
Supporters of Nairobi-based Al Jazeera journalist Peter Greste protesting against his imprisonment back in February A Downing Street spokeswoman said: “The Prime Minister is completely appalled by the guilty verdicts.
”We are particularly concerned about the reports of procedural issues during the trial, including that key prosecution evidence was not made available to the defence team.
“We will continue to raise this issue with the Egyptian government and urge them to review this case as a matter of urgency and demonstrate their commitment to freedom of expression.
”The Foreign Secretary raised this with the Egyptian foreign minister when he was visiting London in May.“
Mr Hague said: ”I am appalled by the guilty verdicts handed down against Egyptian and international journalists in Egypt.
“British ministers and diplomats will continue to urge the Egyptian government to demonstrate its commitment to freedom of expression by reviewing this case as a matter of urgency and I have instructed officials to summon the Egyptian ambassador to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office.”
Mr Greste's father said today that his family was stunned by the court's decision to imprison his son.
Juris Greste told reporters in the family's home town of Brisbane that he was in a state of shock and was struggling to think straight.
“We're not usually a family of superlatives, but I have to say this morning my vocabulary fails to convey just how shattered we are,” he said.
“You can never prepare yourself for something as painful as this.”
Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott said: “We're obviously shocked, dismayed, really bewildered by the decision of the court in Egypt.”
He said he had a “very constructive discussion” about Mr Greste over the weekend with Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi.
“My understanding is that the Egyptian court system does work at arm's length from the government, but I do understand that once the court system has done its work, then there are options for presidential acts - presidential clemency, presidential pardons and so on - that's why I'm not in the business of being critical of the government,” Mr Abbott said.
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