UK & World News

  • 26 June 2014, 14:49

Jailed Journalist Outraged Over 'Political' Trial

Al Jazeera journalist Peter Greste has revealed his "devastation and outrage" after being sentenced to seven years in an Egyptian prison.

Mr Greste, 48, and his colleague Mohamed Fadel Fahmy were convicted by a Cairo court on Monday of "spreading false news" about the Muslim Brotherhood. He had been in Egypt for just two weeks when he was arrested.

Producer Baher Mohamed was sentenced to 10 years in prison following a high-profile trial that was watched closely by news organisations around the world.

The verdict enraged fellow journalists and colleagues of Mr Greste who claimed the verdict was politically motivated.

"Throughout this trial, the prosecutor has consistently failed to present a single piece of concrete evidence to support the outrageous allegations against us," Mr Greste said in a statement posted on the Free Peter Greste Facebook page.

"At the same time our lawyers have highlighted countless procedural errors, irregularities and abuses of due process that should have had the entire case thrown out of court many times over.

"The verdict confirms that our trial was never simply about the charges against us? It has been an attempt to use the court to intimidate and silence critical voices in the media.

"That is why I know that our freedom, and more importantly the freedom of Egypt's press, will never come without noisy, sustained pressure from individuals, human rights groups, governments and anyone who understands the fundamental importance of a free press to Egypt's fledgling democracy."

After their son was jailed, Mr Greste's parents described his sentence as "a slap in the face and a kick in the groin".

Lois and Juris Greste held an emotional news conference in Brisbane and said the family was in a state of shock and struggling to think straight in the wake of the sentencing.

"We're not usually a family of superlatives, but I have to say... my vocabulary fails to convey just how shattered we are," Juris Greste said.

Eleven of 20 defendants who stood trial were given 10-year sentences in their absence, including one Dutch journalist and two Britons, including Al Jazeera correspondent Sue Turton.

"We really believed the judge would recognise these were politically motivated charges," Ms Turton told Sky News.

"We don't understand what it is they're accusing us of. They're trying to stop anyone having an opinion that doesn't tally with the government's narrative."

Since the Egyptian army ousted Islamist president Mohamed Morsi last year, the country's authorities have been enraged by Al Jazeera's coverage of their deadly crackdown on his supporters.

They consider the satellite network to be the voice of Qatar, and accuse Doha of backing Morsi's Brotherhood, while the Emirate openly denounces the repression of the Islamist supporters.