Australian journalist Peter Greste and his Al Jazeera colleagues accused of aiding the blacklisted Muslim Brotherhood have been jailed for seven years in Egypt.
Greste and two other reporters working for Qatar-based Al-Jazeera English were among 20 defendants in a trial that has triggered international outrage amid fears of growing media restrictions in Egypt.
Since the army ousted Islamist president Mohamed Morsi in July 2013, the authorities have been incensed by the Qatari network’s coverage of their deadly crackdown on his supporters.
They consider Al Jazeera as the voice of Qatar, and accuse Doha of backing Morsi’s Brotherhood.
Greste, Egyptian-Canadian Mohamed Fadel Fahmy and producer Baher Mohamed were tried with 17 others on charges of “spreading false news” and having Brotherhood links.
The three have already been detained for nearly six months, along with six others.
Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott said he spoke to Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi over the weekend.
“I assured him – as a former journalist myself – that Peter Greste would have been reporting the Muslim Brotherhood, not supporting the Muslim Brotherhood,” Mr Abbott earlier told the Seven Network on Monday.
Mr Abbott said the president understood Australia’s position.
“I made my point. I made it as clearly as I could,” he said
The talks between the two leaders follow similar lobbying by Foreign Minister Julie Bishop, who spoke with her recently appointed Egyptian counterpart Sameh Shoukri over the weekend.
In Canberra, parliamentarians made a bipartisan plea for Greste’s release.
Greste’s two brothers were in court for Monday’s ruling.
Al Jazeera says only nine of the 20 defendants are on its staff, including two foreign reporters who are abroad.
A Dutch journalist, who is not working with the channel, is also among the defendants.
Sixteen are Egyptians accused of belonging to the Brotherhood, which the military-installed government designated a “terrorist organisation” in December.
The four foreigners are also alleged to have collaborated with and assisted their Egyptian co-defendants by providing media material, as well as editing and broadcasting it.
Prosecutors demanded the maximum penalty for all defendants.
The 16 Egyptians could be jailed for 25 years, while the foreigners could get 15 years, their lawyers say.