Foreign Affairs Minister Julie Bishop says she has appealed to “every level of the Egyptian government” for the release of Peter Greste, whose verdict is due to be heard tomorrow.
The Australian journalist and two other reporters working for the Qatar-based Al Jazeera English have been detained since December and are among 20 accused, in a trial that has triggered international outrage amid fears of growing media restrictions in Egypt.
Egyptian prosecutors have demanded the maximum penalty of 15 to 25 years in jail for all defendants.
Ms Bishop told the ABC’s Insiders program she has spoken with the newly elected Egyptian foreign minister about her concerns over Greste’s imprisonment.
“I spoke to the new Egyptian foreign minister overnight. He has just been appointed because of the presidential elections and I re-emphasised our concerns about Peter Greste and the fact that he’s been in detention since last year,” Ms Bishop said.
“I pointed out that he’s the only foreign journalist in these circumstances and I made the representations again that we wanted him home as soon as possible.
“The foreign minister took onboard what I had to say. This is a message that we have given at every level we can find in the Egyptian government, whether it be the current or the interim government previously.
“Our Prime Minister rang the interim president and I know he’s seeking to make contact with the new president, president [Abdel Fattah] al-Sisi. So we are making representations at every level in the Egyptian government with a view to ensuring that Peter Greste is home as soon as possible.”
Greste family says anything but acquittal ‘unthinkable’
Meanwhile, Greste’s family remain nervous ahead of the verdict tomorrow.
Mike Greste says prosecutors have no case against his brother.
“It’s unthinkable for us to expect anything other than an acquittal,” Mr Greste said.
He says the trial has taken an enormous toll on his family, and he wants his brother to be exonerated on all charges.
“All our lives have basically been put on hold for the last six months while we try to concentrate our efforts on securing Peter’s release and supporting him as best we can,” he said.
“It’s something that doesn’t just affect Peter, it’s certainly affecting the whole family.
“They’ve offered up no evidence, or no direct evidence to prove any of the charges. You know videos that had absolutely nothing to do with Egypt were shown in court, photographs of my parents, songs. The list goes on.
“So as far as we’re concerned they’ve got no direct evidence.”
The three Al Jazeera journalists have been imprisoned since last December, charged with spreading false news and supporting the blacklisted Muslim Brotherhood.
Of those on trial, 16 are Egyptians charged with joining the Brotherhood, which was designated a terrorist organisation in the wake of the army ousting elected president Mohamed Morsi last July.
Four foreigners, including Greste, are charged with “spreading false news” and collaborating with and assisting the Egyptian defendants in their crimes by providing media material, as well as editing and publishing it.
Nine of the 20 defendants are in detention, with the others being tried in absentia, including three foreign reporters who are abroad.