Australian al-Jazeera journalist Peter Greste marked a year in prison in Egypt yesterday, with Australian Minister for Foreign Affairs Julie Bishop downplaying hopes that he will be released before an appeal on Thursday.
Last week, Bishop expressed optimism that Greste, convicted in June along with two colleagues for defaming Egypt and aiding banned Muslims, could soon be free.
However, yesterday she said there have been mixed signals from Egyptian authorities, adding that Egyptian Minister of Foreign Affairs Sameh Shoukry had warned her not to expect any developments before this week’s appeal.
“We’re doing what we can to bring Peter Greste home as soon as possible and I remain hopeful that we can get that message through to the Egyptian government, that we want him home,” Bishop said. “Yet in the meantime, the [Egyptian] foreign minister has said to me that we have to await the appeal.”
Greste has been jailed since Dec. 29 last year, along with Canadian-Egyptian Mohamed Fahmy and Egyptian Baher Mohamed, in a case that sparked a global outcry.
Greste and Fahmy were sentenced to seven years and Mohamed to 10 years, prompting claims that their trial was politically motivated and demands for a presidential pardon.
In a letter to his supporters last week, Greste said he felt proud at what had been achieved so far in stirring political debate about the right to a free press and the persecution of journalists in Egypt.
“We have galvanized an incredible coalition of political, diplomatic and media figures, as well as a vast army of social media supporters for that most basic of rights — the right to know,” Greste said.
“Never has cleared-eyed, critical, skeptical journalism been more necessary to help make sense of a world overloaded with information,” he said.
Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi said earlier this year that he could not consider a plea of clemency or a pardon until all legal proceedings have been concluded, including an appeal.
However, Greste’s parents, Lois and Juris Greste, said they hoped their son and his colleagues would be freed soon.
“We do have confidence in the integrity of the Egyptian appeals system in reaching what to us is only one possible decision — and that is to overturn the verdict and let all three of them free,” Juris Greste told reporters.
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