Egypt’s foreign affairs ministry summons British envoy over critique of Al-Jazeera verdict

Ahram Online , Sunday 30 Aug 2015

The British ambassador had expressed concern that prison sentences issued against three journalists ‘will undermine confidence in the basis of Egypt’s stability’

John Casson
UK ambassador John Casson talk to the media at a court in Cairo, Egypt, August 29, 2015 (Photo: Courtesy of the British embassy in Egypt Facebook page)

Egypt's ministry of foreign affairs summoned on Sunday the British ambassador to express its rejection of his comments regarding prison sentences handed down Saturday by an Egyptian court to three Al-Jazeera journalists.

In a statement issued on its official Facebook page, the ministry of foreign affairs expressed its complete rejection of UK ambassador John Casson's statements regarding the Al-Jazeera trial verdicts, describing his criticism as "unacceptable interference in Egyptian judiciary verdicts.”

"Those statements contradict the diplomatic norms for a foreign ambassador accredited in a foreign country, whose main mission is to develop closer ties with that country," said an earlier statement from the ministry.

On Saturday, a Cairo court sentenced six defendants, including three Al-Jazeera journalists and three students, to three years in prison.

The British ambassador, who attended the court session, expressed to reporters after the verdict was announced his shock and concern over the ruling.

Two British nationals were among the eight defendants who stood trial in the case.

"I am concerned that today’s ruling will undermine confidence in the basis of Egypt’s stability, both in Egypt and abroad," John Casson told the reporters at the court following the announcement of the verdict.

Casson expressed his country's support for stability in Egypt, but added that “the question today is whether this will be a fragile and temporary stability on the basis of suspending freedoms of media and expression and depriving individuals of their rights in the Egyptian constitution.”

From his side, the spokesperson of the Egyptian ministry of foreign affairs Ahmed Abu Zeid slammed Casson’s statements.

"What is important is the Egyptian people’s confidence in the integrity of Egypt’s judiciary and its independence," Abu Zeid said, adding that Egypt was not waiting for lessons from anybody.

The defendants were found guilty of operating without a press license and broadcasting material harmful to Egypt in the turbulent months that followed the ouster of Islamist president Mohamed Morsi in June 2013.

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