Countries condemn Egypt's new sentences for Jazeera reporters

29th August 2015, Comments 0 comments

Numerous western countries voiced their disapproval Saturday of an Egyptian court's prison sentences handed down to three Al-Jazeera reporters who they have long asked to be released.

Canada said it was disappointed by the sentence of the Canadian journalist who worked for Al-Jazeera and called for his "immediate" return.

Mohamed Fahmy was sentenced to three years in prison Saturday along with Egyptian producer Baher Mohamed for allegedly broadcasting "false news." A third Al-Jazeera reporter, Australian Peter Greste, was convicted in absentia.

The trio had been retried following an overturn of initial seven-year sentences, and the new decision was a shock given international calls for acquittal.

"Canada is disappointed with Mohamed Fahmy's conviction today. This decision severely undermines confidence in the rule of law in Egypt," Lynne Yelich, minister of state for foreign affairs and consular matters, said in a statement.

"The government of Canada continues to call on the Egyptian government to use all tools at its disposal to resolve Mr. Fahmy's case and allow his immediate return to Canada,"

Yelich's statement noted that Canadian officials have raised the issue with Egypt and "will continue to do so."

Greste spoke out from Australia and called the sentences "outrageous."

"I can't begin to tell you just how heavily it weighs on me," he said, while encouraging supporters to keep fighting the sentences.

Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop said Saturday she was "dismayed" by the sentences.

The European Union issued a statement Saturday calling the sentences a "setback for freedom of expression in Egypt."

"We look forward to the appeals process and reiterate our call for the release of the defendants," the statement said.

Britain likewise voiced its disapproval.

"These sentences will undermine confidence in Egypt's progress towards strong, long-term stability based on implementing the rights granted by the Egyptian constitution," north Africa minister Tobias Ellwood said in a statement.

Western countries have made numerous moves to secure the journalists' release. In January, former Canadian foreign minister John Baird traveled to Egypt in an attempt to return Fahmy to Canada.

Al-Jazeera, based in Qatar, has denounced the verdict against the journalists as a "deliberate attack on press freedom".

According to the Committee to Protect Journalists at least 18 journalists, many accused of being part of the Muslim Brotherhood, are behind bars in Egypt.

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© 2015 AFP

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