The Sunday Mail (Queensland)

Egypt sends journos to jail

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SYD­NEY: Freed Aus­tralian jour­nal­ist Peter Greste last night said the three-year sen­tences handed to him and Al Jazeera col­leagues by an Egyp­tian court were “out­ra­geous” and vowed to fight on.

Greste, Cana­dian na­tional Mo­hammed Fahmy and Egyp­tian pro­ducer Ba­her Mo­hammed re­ceived the jail terms last night in a re­trial of ac­cu­sa­tions they were “spread­ing false news” while cov­er­ing demon­stra­tions af­ter the army ousted Is­lamist pres­i­dent Mo­hamed Morsi in 2013.

The three were ac­cused of hav­ing sup­ported Morsi’s Mus­lim Brother­hood, which author­i­ties have de­clared a ter­ror­ist or­gan­i­sa­tion, in their cov­er­age.

Greste, who will avoid im­pris­on­ment af­ter be­ing de­ported from Egypt ear­lier this year, was tried in ab­sen­tia but his col­leagues were present in court for the ver­dict.

“It’s just dev­as­tat­ing for me,” Greste told Al Jazeera shortly af­ter the sen­tenc­ing, adding that his heart went out to his col­leagues.

“I can’t be­gin to tell you just how heav­ily it weighs on me.”

Greste said he had al­ways sus­pected there could be con­vic­tions for po­lit­i­cal rea­sons in the case which has at­tracted in­ter­na­tional at­ten­tion.

But he said this could have been done with­out ad­di­tional time served, given the months al­ready spent in prison.

The trio were last year sen­tenced to be­tween seven and 10 years in jail, but an ap­peals court in Jan­uary granted them a re­trial, say­ing the ver­dict had not been backed by ev­i­dence.

“We did noth­ing wrong. The pros­e­cu­tion pre­sented no ev­i­dence that we did any­thing wrong and so for us to be con­victed as ter­ror­ists on no ev­i­dence at all is frankly out­ra­geous,” Greste said. “We have to keep fight­ing.” Greste said he be­lieved he was un­able to ap­peal be­cause he could not ap­pear in per­son in court in Egypt but said he would be speak­ing with his lawyer about how to pro­ceed.

Aus­tralian For­eign Min­is­ter Julie Bishop said last night she was “dis­mayed” by the most re­cent sen­tences.

“This is a dis­tress­ing out­come for Mr Greste, his fam­ily and sup­port­ers,” she said.

Ms Bishop said she had spo­ken with Greste and would con­tinue pur­su­ing diplo­matic av­enues with her Egyp­tian coun­ter­part to clear his name.

Al Jazeera con­demned the ver­dicts as a “de­lib­er­ate at­tack on press free­dom” and “a dark day for the Egyp­tian ju­di­ciary”.

The Qatar-based broad­caster said it would not rest un­til its staff are freed.

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