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Father of jailed Al Jazeera reporter Greste renews appeal to Egypt

Father of Australian journalist Peter Greste says his son is innocent of terror-related charges, days ahead of his first trial hearing along with two colleagues

Ahram Online, Tuesday 11 Feb 2014
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The father of an Australian Al Jazeera journalist who is currently in prison in Egypt facing charges of supporting terrorism has maintained his son’s innocence of all charges.

Award-winning reporter Peter Greste, Al Jazeera Cairo bureau chief Mohammed Fahmy and Egyptian producer Baher Mohamed have been in custody since late December, when they were arrested at a Cairo hotel.

The men were referred to trial on 30 January on charges of "airing false new and aiding a terrorist group", along with 17 other reporters who prosecutors allege belong to Al Jazeera network.

"Peter is innocent of all allegations against him," Al Jazeera English quoted Greste's father, Juris, as saying on Tuesday. "He is the innocent victim of a challenging time Egypt is living through."

Remarks by Greste's father came shortly before an Egyptian court on Monday set 20 February for the first hearing of the case.

Juris Greste claimed that his son should rather be judged on the high quality reporting he produced in Egypt.

Defendants in the case include 16 Egyptians and four foreigners: Greste, two Britons and a Dutch journalist, Rena Netjes.

Netjes, who has publicly stated that she has never worked for Al Jazeera, said she believed her name had been added to the indictment list because she had visited Fahmy at his Cairo hotel in December. She has denied all charges against her.

It was not the first plea Greste's family has made for his release. His parents appealed to Egypt's authorities in a conference in Australia last month, claiming that allegations made against him were "completely preposterous."

Egyptian authorities accuse the Al Jazeera network of giving favourable coverage to the Muslim Brotherhood group, declared a terrorist organisation by authorities in December.

The clampdown on journalists has provoked an international outcry and was condemned by international rights groups and media organisations.

The White House last week said that the detention of the journalists was "of deep concern" to Washington, urging Egypt's government to drop the charges against the reporters and release them.

"These figures, regardless of affiliation, should be protected and permitted to do their jobs freely in Egypt," White House spokesman Jay Carney said.

Last month, Greste wrote from Tora prison in Cairo where he is being held, describing the harsh conditions and criticising the authorities for the arrests.

"The state will not tolerate hearing from the Muslim Brotherhood or any other critical voices. The prisons are overflowing with anyone who opposes or challenges the government," he said in one of his letters. "So our arrest is not a mistake, and as a journalist this IS my battle."

Two other staff members of the Qatar-based TV network - Al Jazeera Arabic correspondent Abdullah El-Shami and cameraman for Al Jazeera's Egyptian affiliate Mohammad Badr – were arrested in July and August on charges of committing acts of violence.

Badr was acquitted and released last week. El-Shami remains in custody but is not part of the trial.

 

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