JavaScript disabled. Please enable JavaScript to use My News, My Clippings, My Comments and user settings.

If you have trouble accessing our login form below, you can go to our login page.

If you have trouble accessing our login form below, you can go to our login page.

Peter Greste case: international anger for Egypt's sentencing of al-Jazeera journalists

Video settings

Please Log in to update your video settings

Video will begin in 5 seconds.

Video settings

Please Log in to update your video settings

Greste's family react to Peter's sentence

Peter Greste's brother Andrew says they will fight an Egyptian court ruling ordering lengthy prison terms to three al-Jazeera journalists. Greste's parents react to hearing the news.

PT0M0S 620 349

Cairo: Egypt faces international condemnation over the harsh jail sentences handed down to three al-Jazeera journalists – including Australian Peter Greste – with human rights groups describing the verdict as a black day in the country’s unrelenting assault on the freedom of expression.

Egypt’s relentless pursuit of Greste, Canadian-Egyptian bureau chief Mohamed Fahmy and Egyptian producer Baher Mohamed was vindictive and politically motivated, Amnesty International said. Greste and Fahmy were sentenced to seven years in jail and Mohammed was sentenced to 10 years.

Al-Jazeera journalist and Australian citizen Peter Greste stands inside the defendants' cage in a courtroom during the trial.

Al-Jazeera journalist and Australian citizen Peter Greste stands inside the defendants' cage in a courtroom during the trial. Photo: AP

The prosecution had produced no evidence to back its claims or to support a conviction, Amnesty said, instead, the three were “pawns” in the bitter geopolitical dispute between Egypt and Qatar, the oil-rich Gulf country that finances al-Jazeera.

Qatar has long been perceived as a supporter of the Muslim Brotherhood, the multinational religious and political group labelled a terrorist organisation in Egypt late last year as part of a vicious government security crackdown on the group and its supporters.

The Qatari government pumped billions of dollars in aid to support Egypt’s sinking economy during the 11-month term of the Muslim Brotherhood backed president, Mohamed Mursi.

The Australian ambassador to Egypt, Dr Ralph King, right, sits next to Andrew Greste, brother of defendant Peter Greste during the sentencing hearing.

The Australian ambassador to Egypt, Dr Ralph King, right, sits next to Andrew Greste, brother of defendant Peter Greste during the sentencing hearing. Photo: AP

Once Mursi was forced from power by the Egyptian military, acting on what it described as a groundswell of public support, the retribution against the Brotherhood and its backers was swift and brutal.

“The truth is that Mohamed Fahmy, Peter Greste and Baher Mohamed are prisoners of conscience who must be released immediately and unconditionally,” said Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui, Amnesty’s Middle East and North Africa Program Deputy Director. 

As Peter Greste’s stunned family regrouped to plan the next phase of their campaign to free him from one of Egypt’s most notorious prisons where he has spent the past six months in a 3mx4m cell with his colleagues, the censures poured in from world leaders.

The fiancee of journalist Mohamed Fahmy is consoled by a friend following the verdicts in the sentencing hearing for al-Jazeera journalists.

The fiancee of journalist Mohamed Fahmy is consoled by a friend following the verdicts in the sentencing hearing for al-Jazeera journalists. Photo: AP

Just a day after he visited Egypt to meet with President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi to announce the United States had released $US575 million in military aid that had been frozen since the ousting of Mursi last July, US Secretary of State John Kerry was scathing in his criticism of the verdict.

“Today's conviction and chilling, draconian sentences by the Cairo Criminal Court of three al-Jazeera journalists and 15 others in a trial that lacked many fundamental norms of due process, is a deeply disturbing setback to Egypt's transition.

“Injustices like these simply cannot stand if Egypt is to move forward in the way that President al-Sisi and Foreign Minister [Sameh] Shoukry told me just yesterday that they aspire to see their country advance.”

Peter Greste (left) and his colleagues Mohamed Fadel Fahmy and Baher Mohamed listen to the verdict from inside the defendants' cage.

Peter Greste (left) and his colleagues Mohamed Fadel Fahmy and Baher Mohamed listen to the verdict from inside the defendants' cage. Photo: AFP

Mr Kerry urged the Egyptian government to review all political sentences and verdicts pronounced during the last few years and consider all available remedies, including pardons.

But despite his strong words there was no indication that the newly unfrozen military aid would have any human rights conditions attached.

The British Foreign Secretary William Hague confirmed Egypt's ambassador would be summoned to the Foreign Office over the sentencing, which he described as "unacceptable".

The Dutch took similar action, with Foreign Affairs Minister Frans Timmermans confirming the Netherlands had summoned the Egyptian ambassador.

Foreign Affairs Minister Julie Bishop said the government was "bitterly disappointed with the outcome" - it is understood the Egyptian ambassador to Australia would be meeting with the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade on Tuesday.

"The Australian government is shocked at the verdict in the Peter Greste case. We are deeply dismayed by the fact that a sentence has been imposed and we are appalled by the severity of it."

Egypt's foreign ministry appeared to reject the wave of international criticism, putting out a statement on Monday evening claiming the country's judiciary "enjoys full independence, and the new constitution provides safeguards to ensure media freedom and to guarantee due process in judicial proceedings".

"The defendants in this case were arrested in accordance with warrants issued by the relevant investigative body, the Office of the Public Prosecutor; due process was adhered to with all of the defendants," the ministry said, noting the journalists still had the right to appeal.

But the ministry's statement fell on deaf ears. 

Greste and Fahmy were sentenced to seven years in prison, while Mohamed received a 10-year term. Out of six others on trial alongside journalists, two were acquitted and four were sentenced to seven years.

The court also sentenced a number of other journalists to 10-year sentences in absentia, including al-Jazeera journalists Sue Turton and Dominic Kane, both from the UK and the Dutch journalist Rena Netjes, who has no association with al-Jazeera.

Egypt’s prosecutor general claimed the journalists had used unlicensed equipment to broadcast false information to defame and destabilise Egypt. Fahmy and Mohamed were further accused of being members of the Muslim Brotherhood. All deny the charges, as do the others who were charged and tried in absentia.

Outside the court, Greste’s brothers Andrew and Michael struggled to make sense of the guilty verdict and the harsh sentences – both have been in court over the past six months and like all observers did not see any evidence presented that backed the prosecution’s claims.

“Gutted,” Andrew Greste said when asked how he was feeling outside the court at Tora Prison in Cairo. “All those words really don’t do my emotions justice.

Vowing that the family would fight on against the conviction, Andrew said the Egyptian authorities assured his family the trial would be fair and the justice system independent.

“It definitely wasn't an outcome we were expecting … we have had a family representative at each of the court sessions and I find it very difficult to understand how we get a decision like that.”

“[Peter] is not going to give up,” Andrew said. “Obviously he is going to be shattered as well as I am sure it was not an outcome he was expecting.”

The family is considering both a legal appeal to Egypt’s Court of Cassation and an appeal for clemency or a pardon from President al-Sisi.

The United Nations Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay also condemned the al-Jazeera verdicts.

Along with Saturday’s confirmation by an Egyptian court of the death penalty for 183 Muslim Brotherhood members and supporters convicted in an earlier mass trial, the journalists’ sentences are the latest in a string of prosecutions and proceedings that have been “rife with procedural irregularities and in breach of international human rights law,” Ms Pillay said.

“It is not a crime to carry a camera, or to try to report various points of views about events,” Ms Pillay said. “It is not a crime to criticise the authorities, or to interview people who hold unpopular views.

“Journalists and civil society members should not be arrested, prosecuted, beaten up or sacked for reporting on sensitive issues. They should not be shot for trying to report or film things we, the public, have a right to know are happening.” 

Related Coverage

Andrew and Mick Greste, brothers of Al-Jazeera news channel's Australian journalist Peter Greste, speak to the press following their brother's trial for allegedly supporting the Muslim Brotherhood on June 23, 2014 at the police institute near Cairo's Tora prison. The Egyptian court sentenced the three Al-Jazeera journalists to jail terms ranging from seven to 10 years after accusing them of aiding the blacklisted Brotherhood.  AFP PHOTO / KHALED DESOUKI Greste's family react to Peter's sentence

Peter Greste's brother Andrew says they will fight an Egyptian court ruling ordering lengthy prison terms to three al-Jazeera journalists. Greste's parents react to hearing the news.

Australian journalist Peter Greste jailed for seven years for 'defaming Egypt'

Peter Greste and his two al-Jazeera colleagues have been found guilty by an Egyptian court and sentenced to seven years in prison for producing false news to defame Egypt.

Geoffrey Robertson calls on government to fight for Peter Greste at The Hague

The Australian government could use an international court to force Egypt to free imprisoned journalist Peter Greste, in the same way it got Japan to end its Antarctic whaling program, a leading human rights lawyer says.

US condemns Egypt's ruling on al-Jazeera journalists, including Australian Peter Greste

The United States government has condemned the sentencing in Egypt of al-Jazeera journalists including the Australian Peter Greste in strong statements by the White House and the State Department, but so far not detailed any steps it might take to see them overturned.

Peter Greste case: Julie Bishop will press Egyptian government, but stopped short of condoning ...

Foreign Minister Julie Bishop said the Abbott government would continue to make representations to the highest level of the Egyptian government on behalf of Australian journalist Peter Greste.

Australian journalist Peter Greste's family yet to decide on appeal

The family of Australian journalist Peter Greste, who was jailed in Egypt on Monday, say they are yet to decide whether they will appeal his seven-year jail sentence.

Rena Netjes: 'I will not relax until Peter Greste is out of that prison'

Dutch journalist Rena Netjes says she will not rest until Peter Greste is released from prison in Egypt.

Journalists can be caught in webs of suspicion over 'dark' forces at play in Middle East

In the Middle East, nothing flourishes like a conspiracy theory.

John Kerry and US need Egypt for regional stability despite Peter Greste's conviction

Despite the strong words from the White House, the US's strategic reliance on Egypt will give Peter Greste's family little comfort.

Related Coverage

Featured advertisers

Special offers

Credit card, savings and loan rates by Mozo