Prime Minister 'bewildered' by Peter Greste verdict
Tony Abbott says the Government will do all it can to bring the journalist home, but won't engage in megaphone diplomacy.PT2M18S http://www.canberratimes.com.au/action/externalEmbeddedPlayer?id=d-3aq4x 620 349 June 24, 2014
- Global anger over sentencing of al-Jazeera journalists
- Lawyer Geoffrey Robertson calls on government to fight for Greste in the Hague
- The Pulse Live with Judith Ireland in Canberra
The Abbott government has hauled in Egypt's senior representative to express Australia' dismay over the Peter Greste verdict in an escalation of the diplomatic row.
Diplomat Sherif Bedeir met Department of Foreign Affairs deputy secretary Gillian Bird in Canberra at 11am.
Sherif Bedeir from the Egyptian embassy leaves after his meeting on Peter Greste with the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. Photo: Alex Ellinghausen
Ms Bird expressed Australia's anger and dissatisfaction at the harsh, seven-year jail sentence handed to the al-Jazeera journalist on Monday night. Two of Greste's colleagues were also jailed.
Mr Bedeir brushed past reporters outside the department both on his way in and out of the meeting. He declined to answer any questions.
Ambassador Hassan el-Laithy is in Egypt, leaving Mr Bedeir, Egypt's charge d'affaires, as the country's most senior diplomat.
Foreign Affairs Minister Julie Bishop says she will continue to make high-level representation to Egypt on behalf of Peter Greste. Photo: Alex Ellinghausen
However, the government is understood to be moderating its tone towards the Egyptian government because it plans to lobby for a presidential pardon if the legal appeals process fails.
Foreign Minister Julie Bishop said the Abbott government would continue to make representations to the highest level of the Egyptian government on behalf of Greste.
But Ms Bishop played down the possibility of sanctions against Egypt, saying on Monday that the government wanted to keep dialogue open with the Egyptian government.
On Monday Prime Minister Tony Abbott said the government was ''shocked, dismayed, really bewildered by the decision of the court in Egypt''.
Speaking to reporters in Canberra, Mr Abbott said Australia respected the legitimacy of the Egyptian government andits justice system to make decisions.
''But it is important that there be due process, it is important that decisions be made on a fair and just basis. So we will be talking to the Greste family. We will be talking to the Egyptian Government about what we can do to try to ensure that Peter Greste comes home as quickly as possible,'' he said.
''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 and that's why I'm not in the business of being critical of the government as such.
Mr Abbott added that he did not want to engage in ''unhelpful megaphone diplomacy'', saying that won't do Peter Greste any good, it won't do his two al-Jazeera colleagues any good. What we want to do is to talk calmly and patiently and reasonably to the Egyptian government.''
Ms Bishop is trying to get in touch with the Egyptian foreign minister.
''I'm seeking a call with him to register our shock and dismay,'' she told the Seven Network.
''And we are going to register a formal diplomatic-level request with the new president of Egypt to see if he can intervene in the proceedings at this stage.''
Ms Bishop says the government has been working closely with the United States and other governments behind the scenes to put pressure on Egypt over the case.
Labor's foreign affairs spokeswoman Tanya Plibersek said on Monday that it was important to continue high level consular support to Greste and his family.
She called on Abbott government ministers to lobby their Egyptian counterparts to free the journalist and encourage other countries to voice their disapproval over his jailing.
Ms Plibersek declined to discuss whether the Greens' call for sanctions against Egypt was appropriate.
''I think the most important thing is putting Peter Greste and his needs at the centre of any decisions we're making,'' she told ABC radio.
''This has sent a very wrong signal about the commitment of Egypt to a free and functioning press.''