Foreign Minister Julie Bishop is “hopeful” Australian journalist Peter Greste, currently in an Cairo prison serving a seven-year sentence, could be released before Christmas.
Speaking on Channel Seven’s Sunrise program today, Bishop said she’d held talks with the Egyptian foreign minister on Monday to press for the release of the Al Jazeera reporter and was optimistic Greste could be released by Christmas.
“He [Sameh Shoukry] said it was under consideration so we are hoping that our representations will result in a release for Peter Greste,” Bishop said. “We’ve got our fingers crossed.”
Greste was jailed in June, alongside colleagues Mohamed Fahmy and Baher Mohamed, for supposedly aiding the blacklisted Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and spreading false news that the country was in a state of civil war.
The verdict sparked international outrage about the fairness of the trial, and the court’s decision, based on the evidence presented. Bishop said she was “shocked” by the outcome, while US Secretary of State John Kerry called it “draconian” and “disturbing”.
The trio lodged appeals against their sentences, which are set to be heard on January 1.
Meanwhile, Greste sent a Christmas message to his supporters from his cell in Mazraa Prison, Cairo, this week, nearly a year since he was first arrested saying that their fight for justice had created global awareness about press freedom, the persecution of journalists, and Egypt’s justice system.
“We have galvanised an incredible coalition of political, diplomatic and media figures, as well as a vast army of social media supporters to fight for that most basic of rights: the right to know. Everyone, from US President Barack Obama to the United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to Prime Minister Tony Abbott, has been speaking out both publicly and in private to demand our release and call for a free press in Egypt,” Greste said.
He goes on:
The philosopher and writer Albert Camus was absolutely right when he said the press can, of course, be both good and bad, but without freedom it can never be anything but bad.
That is why our cause, as opposed to simply our case, is so important, and not just for Egypt. The noise you all have been making sends a clear and unequivocal message to politicians around the world: a free press is an indivisible part of a free society.
As we approach the end of our first year in prison, I cannot help but feel proud and strengthened by all that has been achieved so far. We haven’t won this fight yet – we are still behind bars after all – but we have made our cause abundantly and unequivocally clear.
And for that reason, it really is a very good Christmas.
So, from our cell in Cairo, all the very best in season’s greetings.
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