Diplomatic row over sentencing of Greste, colleagues

On Saturday, Australian Peter Greste and his colleagues Mohamed Fahmy and Baher Mohamed were sentenced to three years in prison for what the court called reporting false news.



The case has stoked an international outcry and raised questions over Egypt’s stated commitment to democracy.


Britain’s ambassador to Egypt, John Casson, said he was shocked and concerned by the Egyptian court’s decision.


Egypt has taken offence to those comments and quickly summoned him to talks in Cairo.


Egypt’s foreign ministry has expressed what it calls its “strong objection” to Ambassador Casson’s comments, describing them as an unacceptable interference in Egypt’s judiciary.


Amal Clooney is the lawyer representing Mohamed Fahmy.


Ms Clooney says Egyptian president Abdel Fatah al-Sisi needs to listen to the criticism.


“It’s ironic that the charge here — and what the conviction was for — is tarnishing Egypt’s reputation, when the thing that the international community condemns Egypt for is this case and similar cases. This is what’s tarnishing Egypt’s image. And I do think he’s aware of that. And he has a way to fix it.”


She has called on the President to pardon the men.


“The one that we’re pushing for the most is for President Sisi to issue a pardon, because that would mean that the conviction is reversed, that it would be recognised that they didn’t commit a crime, and that would apply to all journalists, not just those who are foreign.”


Rights advocates argue the men’s arrests are part of a crackdown on free speech waged since the army overthrew President Mohamed Mursi in July 2013.


The three men were originally sentenced to seven to ten years in prison on charges that included spreading lies to help what was described as a terrorist organisation.


That was a reference to the banned Muslim Brotherhood.


The three have denied all charges.


Three other Egyptians, all students, have also received three-year sentences for the same charges.


Peter Greste will not serve the sentence, because he was deported to Australia.


He concedes the conviction would end his career as a foreign correspondent.


But he says he is more concerned about his colleagues.


“The fact is that we did nothing wrong, that there was no evidence of wrongdoing, that these guys are innocent men and innocent men are in prison. That’s what this is about. Never mind the sentences. One day in prison would be … would be unjust.”