Egypt's President al-Sisi 'regrets jailing of Al Jazeera journalists,' wishes they were deported instead

The new president has publicly lamented the sentences, saying he would have preferred they didn't stand trial at all

Egypt’s president has said he regrets the sentences passed on three Al Jazeera journalists and said he would have rather they were deported.

Abdel Fattah al-Sisi told Egyptian media that his government had nothing to do with the court ruling and that the “verdict issued against a number of journalists” had had “very negative consequences.”

Publicly acknowledging that the country’s international reputation was affected by the case, Mr al-Sisi said he “wished they were deported immediately after their arrest instead of being put on trial.”

His views were published on the website of Egyptian-language daily newspaper Al-Masry Al-Youm.

The trial of Australian-born Peter Greste, Canadian-Egyptian Mohammed Fahmy and Egyptian producer Baher Mohammed led to widespread criticism after the journalists were accused of aiding the Muslim Brotherhood, a group considered a terrorist organisation by the Egyptian government.

On 23 June the group were given between seven and 10 years in prison. David Cameron called the sentences “appalling,” while US Secretary of State John Kerry said they were “chilling and draconian.”

The five-month trial was condemned by free speech and human rights groups as an attempt to silence the media.

Al-Sisi said he could not interfere with the independent judiciary, despite a growing call for the President to pardon the convicted men.

Peter Greste’s brother, Andrew, has welcomed the comments and described them as “heartening.”

Andrew, who visited Egypt last week, told reports in Brisbane: “I'm sure images of Peter in the cage in the court are not images Egypt really want distributed around the world,” AFP reports. Fahmy, Greste and Mohamed (l-r) stand behind bars during their trial in May

“And the publicity they're getting out of this I'm sure is not the publicity any country would want.”

He hopes that the continual discussion on the journalists’ jailing could lead to an “amicable solution.”

President al-Sisi did not elaborate on how Baher Mohammed, one of the three imprisoned, would be deported as he is an Egyptian national.

Last month journalists staged a protest against the sentences, with BBC’s Director of News, James Harding, leading a one minute silence while the New York Times dedicated its back page to the jailed three.

Mr Kerry visited Mr al-Sisi a day before the sentences were passed to renew political ties with the country following its ousting of Mohamed Morsi last July.

In an embarrassment to the senior US official, the jail terms were given just after he pledged to resume aid to the country having revealed that the US has released $575million.

READ MORE: Al Jazeera silence from BBC
Al-Jazeera journalists jailed
Al-Jazeera journalists: A proxy in the war between Qatar and Saudi Arabia
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksA celebration of British elections
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Senior Digital Marketing Consultant

£28000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Senior Digital Marketing Cons...

Recruitment Genius: Assistant Stores Keeper

£16640 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An Assistant Stores Keeper is r...

Recruitment Genius: Claims Administrator

£16000 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an excellent opportunit...

Recruitment Genius: Software Developer - C# / ASP.NET / SQL

£17000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Developer required to join a bu...

Day In a Page

'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Russell Brand's interview with Ed Miliband has got everyone talking about The Trews

Everyone is talking about The Trews

Russell Brand's 'true news' videos attract millions of viewers. But today's 'Milibrand' interview introduced his resolutely amateurish style to a whole new crowd
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living
Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

Homeless people keep mobile phones

A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before
'Queer saint' Peter Watson left his mark on British culture by bankrolling artworld giants

'Queer saint' who bankrolled artworld giants

British culture owes a huge debt to Peter Watson, says Michael Prodger
Pushkin Prizes: Unusual exchange programme aims to bring countries together through culture

Pushkin Prizes brings countries together

Ten Scottish schoolchildren and their Russian peers attended a creative writing workshop in the Highlands this week
14 best kids' hoodies

14 best kids' hoodies

Don't get caught out by that wind on the beach. Zip them up in a lightweight top to see them through summer to autumn
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The acceptable face of the Emirates

The acceptable face of the Emirates

Has Abu Dhabi found a way to blend petrodollars with principles, asks Robert Fisk