Peter Greste, the award winning Australian journalist jailed by the Egyptian regime has passed a message via his brothers, Mike and Andrew, showing his outrage at the verdict against him and pledging to do all he can to overturn the conviction. He also conveyed that he was grateful for the extraordinary public support he has been getting for his ordeal.
While working for Al Jazeera, Greste was arrested in Cairo last year with two other colleagues Mohammad Fahmy and Baher Mohammad while reporting on the military crackdown against unarmed demonstrators. They were accused of news reporting which was “damaging to the national security”. Greste’s application for bail was repeatedly refused and, after months of solitary confinement, on 23 June he was found guilty by the court and sentenced to seven years in prison.
The news of the verdict followed swift international condemnation, outrage by the journalistic fraternity and demands for justice by human rights organisations such as Amnesty International. Despite representations by many politicians including US Secretary of State John Kerry who termed the sentence “chilling and draconian” as well as by the Australian Prime Minister, Tony Abbott, the Egyptian strongman, General al-Sisi, has refused to intervene.
The court verdict is widely seen as being dictated by the Egyptian military regime ruthlessly suppressing any form of dissent and its reporting by international media organisations. The judiciary in Egypt is not considered independent and toes the dictates of the regime led by General al-Sisi, who deposed the democratically elected President Mohamed Mursi on 3 July last year and has since ruled with an iron fist killing thousands and putting tens of thousands behind bars. More than 2,000 unarmed protesters camped in Al-Adawiyah Square were killed by the military in August last year including women and children who took refuge in the Al-Adawiyah mosque.
The notorious Egyptian judge Said Youssef has been giving death sentences en masse to people arrested for supporting Al-Ikhwan al Muslimoon, Muslim Brotherhood that won the free and fair elections held in 2012. On 21 June in Minya, he gave death sentences to 183 defendants accusing them of supporting Muslim Brotherhood. The same judge caused international outrage when he pronounced death sentences on 529 people on 29 March.
Human rights organisations have decried these sentences and called on the Egyptian regime to adhere to the rule of law. However this ruthless suppression is widely considered as a means of eliminating any opposition to the regime in general and the popular Muslim Brotherhood in particular.
Greste Message from prison
[blockquote style=”2″]I am devastated and outraged by Tuesday’s verdict. Throughout this trial, the prosecutor has consistently failed to present a single piece of concrete evidence to support the outrageous allegations against us. At the same time our lawyers have highlighted countless procedural errors, irregularities and abuses of due process that should have had the entire case thrown out of court many times over. That is why I intend to do everything I can and consider all possible measures to overturn the conviction. The verdict confirms that our trial was never simply about the charges against us. It has been an attempt to use the court to intimidate and silence critical voices in the media. That is why I know that our freedom, and more importantly the freedom of Egypt’s press will never come without noisy, sustained pressure from individuals, human rights groups, governments and anyone who understand the fundamental importance of a free press to Egypt’s fledgling democracy. We are all grateful for the extraordinary and unprecedented public support that countless people have offered us throughout this ordeal. It has kept us strong and continues to do so. We must all remain committed to fight this gross injustice for as long as necessary.[/blockquote]