An Egyptian court yesterday jailed three Al Jazeera journalists, including Australia’s award-winning Peter Greste, in a ruling that sparked global outrage and a US call for them to be pardoned.
Greste and Egyptian-Canadian Mohamed Fadel Fahmy each got seven years, while Egyptian producer Baher Mohamed received two sentences - one for seven years and another for three.
Eleven defendants tried in absentia, including one Dutch journalist and two British journalists, were handed 10 years.
The verdict provoked an international outcry and raised fears of growing media restrictions in Egypt.
Australia expressed shock and US Secretary of State John Kerry spoke of “a chilling and draconian sentence”, while the White House urged President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi to pardon the journalists.
“We call on the Egyptian government to pardon these individuals or commute their sentences so that they can be released immediately and (to) grant clemency for all politically motivated sentences,” said spokesman Josh Earnest.
UN rights chief Navi Pillay said journalism “is not a crime” and urged Egypt to “promptly release” those jailed for doing their job.
Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop said: “We are deeply dismayed that a sentence has been imposed and appalled at the severity of it.”
Al Jazeera chief Mustafa Sawaq said in Doha: “We condemn... this kind of unjust verdict. ... We are shocked.”
Several countries announced plans to summon Egyptian ambassadors to protest what many have called an unjust verdict.
The Australian Associated Press news agency said officials would speak with the Egyptian ambassador Hassan El-Laithy today.
In The Hague, Foreign Minister Frans Timmermans said he had summoned Egypt’s ambassador and would raise the matter with his EU colleagues after Dutch journalist Rena Netjes, tried in absentia, “did not get a fair trial”.
London said it was “completely appalled” by the verdict in absentia against the two Britons and was summoning Cairo’s envoy.
Human Rights Watch’s Joe Stork said the verdict showed “how Egypt’s judges have been caught up in the anti-Muslim Brotherhood hysteria fostered by President al-Sisi”.
On Sunday an Egyptian court confirmed death sentences for more than 180 Islamists including Brotherhood chief Mohamed Badie.
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