News World Advisor: who is Peter Greste?
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Advisor: who is Peter Greste?

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Al Jazeera English journalist, Australian man Peter Greste, may face up to 15 years in an Egyptian prison.

Charged with defaming Egypt and aiding the Muslim Brotherhood, Greste and his colleagues have been in custody since last December.

The conditions in the Cairo prison are said to be grim, with the three men sharing a small cell.

Abdullah Elshamy, a correspondent for Al Jazeera Arabic, was also arrested last year, and has been in jail for almost a year.

So what is the case against journalists in Egypt and who are the Muslim Brotherhood?

Who is Peter Greste?

Greste was working as an Africa correspondent for Al Jazeera when he was arrested by Egyptian authorities six months ago.

Greste has always maintained his innocence and said that he was not aligned with any political party.

“The idea that I could have an association with the Muslim Brotherhood is frankly preposterous,” said Greste in court.

The award-winning journalist has worked for the BBC, CNN and Reuters, and has spent the past decade living in East Africa.

Greste left Australia in 1991 to work as a foreign correspondent and has reported around the world.

He has covered the war in Afghanistan and won a Peabody Award for a documentary on Somalia.

The case against him

Egyptian prosecutors this week demanded that Greste and his colleagues, producers Mohamed Fahmy and Baher Mohamed, and cameraman Mohamed Fawzy, serve 15 years in jail.

They are charged with aiding the Muslim Brotherhood and using “selective filming” to unfairly portray a protest in Tahrir Square against former Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi.

But Al Jazeera claims that the journalists weren’t even in Egypt at the time.

The prosecution claims that Al Jazeera’s reports on sexual assault at political protests were designed to show Egypt in a bad light.

Mohamed, Greste and Fahmy have also been charged with providing a platform for the Muslim Brotherhood, an outlawed group in Egypt.

Lawyers for the journalists and Greste’s family have said that the trial was a show to appease public opinion.

This week’s court session with the 11th in the trial, with the case being frequently adjourned. Their hearing has been postponed until June 16.

What efforts are being made to release them?

Al Jazeera has strongly rejected the charges and called for the immediate release of their journalists.

“The world knows that the three Al Jazeera staff who have been jailed were just doing their jobs,” said a spokesman for Al Jazeera yesterday.

The United Nations has also weighed in on the issue.

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights spokesman Rupert Colville said in a statement that the charges were “vague” and called for the journalists to be released.

Greste’s parents have petitioned tirelessly in the media for their son’s release.

In February, Greste’s father Juris told the ABC that he wasn’t sure if the Australian Government was doing enough, but they now concede that the government has few options.

Australian foreign minister Julie Bishop said that while she had spoken with her Egyptian counterpart, Nabil Fahmy, there was only so much that the Australian Government could do.

“Clearly, it is not possible for another nation to interfere in the criminal proceedings of another country,” Ms Bishop told The Guardian.

What is the Muslim Brotherhood?

The Muslim Brotherhood is an Islamic political party that was declared a terrorist group by Egypt’s interim government just days before Greste was arrested.

In 2012 the Muslim Brotherhood became the first democratically elected party in Egypt after leader Mohamed Morsi was elected President.

During Mohamed Morsi’s term civil unrest grew in Egypt and he was deposed by the military.

Egypt’s military-backed interim government outlawed the Muslim Brotherhood group and declared it a terrorist group last December.

Family’s pleas

Speaking with ABC’s Radio National this morning, Greste’s brother, Andrew Greste, said that he was struggling to make sense of the case.

“It’s difficult for me to make sense of it because we haven’t seen any evidence. The only reason I can put it down to is a face-saving exercise,” he said.

When hearing about the prosecution’s plans to pursue a maximum penalty of 15 years for the journalists, Andrew Greste said he was disappointed.

“I guess I’m extremely disappointed, but not surprised at the prosecutors wanting to pursue the case. We haven’t seen him let-up at all over the 10 sessions, even after a lack of evidence and inconsistencies in witness statements,” he said.

He said that his brother was being remarkably strong and was hopeful that justice would prevail.

“That is one thing that is helping Peter – he knows that justice will prevail and that he has done nothing wrong.”