Al Jazeera verdict triggers international condemnation
Ahram Online, Monday 23 Jun 2014

Foreign officials and human rights organisations have condemned the jailing of seven defendants, including three Al Jazeera English reporters, for 7-10 years in a maximum security prison.

Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop said she was deeply shocked by the seven-year sentence imposed on Australian journalist Peter Greste.

“This kind of verdict does nothing to support Egypt’s claim that it is moving towards democracy,” said Bishop, adding she would be speaking to the Egyptian government.

The Netherlands summoned the Egyptian ambassador over the conviction of Dutch journalist Rena Netjes. She was sentenced in absentia to 10 years in prison.

“The Netherlands is very disappointed in the verdict pronounced by the Egyptian judge against the Dutch journalist Rena Netjes,” said a statement on the official Facebook page of the Dutch Embassy in Egypt.

“According to the Dutch Minister of Foreign Affairs Frans Timmermans, Rena Netjes did not have a fair trial. The Netherlands is taking this matter very seriously. Mr Timmermans has summoned the Egyptian Ambassador and will discuss the matter today in Luxembourg with his European counterparts.”

British Foreign Secretary William Hague said via Twitter that Egypt should review the “unacceptable sentences” against Egyptian and international journalists and “show commitment to freedom of the press.”

He said the Egyptian ambassador would be summoned to the Foreign Office over the sentences.

The ambassadors of Canada, Australia, UK, Netherlands, as well other foreign diplomats, attended the trial.

A criminal court in Cairo on Monday sentenced seven defendants, including Al Jazeera English journalists Mohamed Fadel, Peter Greste and Baher Mohamed, to seven years in jail. Mohamed was handed an extra three-year term and fined LE5,000 for possessing ammunition. Two defendants were acquitted. Eleven people tried in absentia were handed 10-year prison sentences.

“I strongly condemn Egypt’s court decision to send foreign journalists to jail for years for their reporting,” Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt said via Twitter.

Claire Mallinison, the national director of Amnesty International Australia, described the verdict as “outrageous” adding that they would not give up on Peter Greste or the other defendants.

Amnesty International Australia launched an online campaign urging people to write to Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi to demand the release of the Al Jazeera staff.