Australia summons Egyptian ambassador over Jazeera verdicts

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From left, Peter Greste, Mohamed Fahmy and Baher Mohamed listen to the ruling at a court in Cairo, Egypt, June 23, 2014.
Australia summoned a senior Egyptian diplomat on Tuesday to protest against the sentencing of an Australian reporter, one of three Al Jazeera journalists jailed for seven years by an Egyptian judge in a verdict that left his family "shattered".
Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott said Tuesday the Egyptian justice system has the right to make its own decisions, but that Australia was "bewildered" by the ruling.
 
"Yes, we understand the need of the Egyptian government to maintain internal order and to crack down on extremism including the Muslim Brotherhood. But, 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," said Abbott.
 
Peter Greste\’s father, Juris Greste, told reporters Tuesday in Brisbane that the family will continue to fight until the journalists are free, and called the sentencing a "dark time" for journalism.
 
"Journalism is not a crime or you should all be behind bars. It\’s as simple as that. This man, our son, Peter, is an award winning journalist. He is not a criminal. He is not a criminal," said Greste.
An Egyptian court has convicted three journalists for Al-Jazeera and sentenced them to seven years in prison each on terrorism-related charges.
A court in Cairo convicted Peter Greste, Mohammed Fahmy and Baher Mohamed of spreading false news and supporting the banned Islamist group. The trio had denied the charges.
Three other foreign journalists tried in absentia received 10-year sentences.
The trial has caused an international outcry amid claims it is politicised.
 
Greste and his two colleagues were arrested in December at a Cairo hotel where they were working after Egyptian authorities closed the Qatar-based television network\’s bureau.
The three al-Jazeera journalists have been detained in Egypt for the past six months.
 
The case, and cases against other journalists, have sparked an international outcry, including from press freedom groups who have urged authorities to release any detained journalists and allow for free expression.
 
Last week, Egypt freed another Al-Jazeera journalist who spent 10 months in prison without being charged. Prosecutors ordered the release of Abdullah Elshamy for health reasons after a hunger strike that he began in January to protest his detention.
 
Egyptian authorities have carried out a crackdown on the Brotherhood since Sissi, then the army chief, led the ouster of president Mohamed Morsi last July. Since then, Egypt has drafted a new constitution and voted Sissi into office, and plans to hold parliamentary elections later this year.
Source –  Agencies

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