News World Greste’s ‘outrageous’ sentence
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Greste’s ‘outrageous’ sentence

Peter Greste
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An Egyptian court has sentenced three Al-Jazeera English journalists, including Australian Peter Greste, to three years in prison.

The decision is the last twist in a long-running trial criticised worldwide by press freedom advocates and human rights activists.

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Mr Greste, speaking to Al-Jazeera, described the sentence as “devastating”.

“We did nothing wrong. The prosecution presented no evidence that we did anything wrong and so for us to be convicted as terrorists on no evidence at all is frankly outrageous,” he said on Saturday evening.

Foreign Minister Julie Bishop said she would continue to work with the Egyptian government in a bid to clear Mr Greste’s name.

“I am dismayed by the decision today of the Egyptian District Court, which has found Peter Greste guilty of broadcasting offences,” Ms Bishop said.

“This is a distressing outcome for Mr Greste, his family and supporters.

“I have spoken with Mr Greste today and reaffirmed that I will continue to pursue all diplomatic avenues with my Egyptian counterpart to clear his name.”

In a joint statement, Labor leader Bill Shorten and opposition foreign affairs spokeswoman Tanya Plibersek said the sentence was “unjust” and that “journalists shouldn’t be put on trial or locked up for doing their job anywhere in the world”.

Mr Greste said he had been in contact with his lawyer but would not be appealing the sentence as that would require him to return to Egypt.

“We will explore any other legal avenues that we have open to us,” he said.

Mr Greste has called for governments and diplomats across the world to “make it clear to Egypt that it cannot make these kinds of judgments”.

The case against Greste, Canadian national Mohammed Fahmy and Egyptian producer Baher Mohammed embroiled their journalism into the wider conflict between Egypt and Qatar following the 2013 military ouster of Islamist President Mohammed Morsi.

The case began in December 2013, when Egyptian security forces raided the upmarket hotel suite used by Al-Jazeera at the time to report from Egypt.

Authorities arrested Greste,Fahmy and Mohammed, later charging them with allegedly being part of Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood, which authorities have declared a terrorist organisation, and airing falsified footage intended to damage national security.

Since Morsi’s ousting, Egypt has cracked down heavily on his supporters, and the journalists were accused of being mouthpieces for the Brotherhood.

Al-Jazeera and the journalists have denied the allegations, saying they were simply reporting the news. However, Doha has been a strong supporter of the Brotherhood and other Islamist groups in the greater Mideast.

At trial, prosecutors used news clips about an animal hospital with donkeys and horses, and another about Christian life in Egypt, as evidence they broke the law.

Defence lawyers – and even the judge – dismissed the videos as irrelevant. Nonetheless, the three men were convicted on June 23, 2014, with Greste and Fahmy sentenced to seven years in prison and Mohammed to 10 years.

Egypt deported Greste in February, though he remained charged in the case. Fahmy and Mohammed were later released on bail.

The verdict brought a landslide of international condemnation and calls for newly elected President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi, who as military chief led the overthrow of Morsi, to intervene.

– with AAP

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