Egypt’s president must pardon Australian journalist Peter Greste and his Al Jazeera colleagues to stem the damage to his country’s reputation, human rights lawyer Amal Clooney says.
A Cairo court has handed three-year jail terms to Greste, Canadian Mohamed Fahmy and Egyptian Baher Mohamed for broadcasting false news that harmed Egypt following the 2013 military coup.
The case, widely condemned by the international community, has become an embarrassment for Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi and Ms Clooney, who acts for Fahmy, says he must pardon the men.
“It’s ironic that the conviction was for tarnishing Egypt’s reputation when … this (case) is what’s tarnished Egypt’s image,” Ms Clooney has told BBC News.
“I do think he’s aware of that and he has a way to fix it.”
She said that pardoning the men would tell the international community that Egypt accepted they had not committed a crime.
Ms Clooney said the president had an opportunity to act now, before the trio launched any legal appeals.
“There’s a break now in the judicial proceedings,” she said.
“Similarly there was a break in the judicial proceedings when Peter Greste was deported and that was considered sufficient to allow the executive to intervene then.”
Greste was sentenced in absentia in Saturday after being deported from Egypt in February on the orders of the president.
But his two colleagues remained in Egypt for the retrial and are now back behind bars.
Greste says his conviction could end his career as a foreign correspondent, but he’s more concerned about his colleagues.
The three spent more than a year in jail together before their retrial was ordered.
“President el-Sisi now has an opportunity to undo that injustice, to correct that injustice,” he said.
“The eyes of the world are on Egypt.”
Foreign Affairs Minister Julie Bishop has promised to continue to pursue all diplomatic avenues with her Egyptian counterpart to clear Greste’s name.
The men have always denied spreading false news and supporting the blacklisted Muslim Brotherhood of President Sisi’s predecessor Mohamed Morsi.