Updated: 06/24/2014 11:20 | By Agence France-Presse

Greste's shattered parents vow to fight for press freedom

The shattered parents of jailed Al-Jazeera journalist Peter Greste on Tuesday vowed to keep fighting for press freedom as Australia urged Egypt's new leader to issue a pardon.


Greste's shattered parents vow to fight for press freedom

Juris Greste displays a picture of his son, jailed Australian Al-Jazeera journalist Peter Greste, next to his wife Lois during a press conference in Brisbane, on June 24, 2014 - by Patrick Hamilton

Australian Greste and his Al-Jazeera colleague, Egyptian-Canadian Mohamed Fadel Fahmy, were both sentenced to seven years in jail by a Cairo court on Monday for aiding the blacklisted Muslim Brotherhood and "spreading false news".

Their producer Baher Mohamed received two sentences -- one for seven years and another for three years.

They were among 20 defendants in a trial that triggered global outrage and fears of growing media restrictions in Egypt.

Greste's elderly father Juris said the family was devastated but said their fight had now moved beyond their son's fate.

"This is a very dark time not only for our family, but for journalism generally," he said in Brisbane. "The campaign for media freedom and free speech must never end. Journalism is not a crime."

Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop told ABC national radio that "there's no doubt that the proceedings in the first place were politically motivated".

"Because this was at a time when the military had taken over the government, the Muslim Brotherhood had been the democratically elected government, and then there was a military coup and the Muslim Brotherhood was deemed a terrorist organisation."

Bishop plans to summon Egypt's deputy envoy in Canberra -- the ambassador is currently in Cairo -- and call Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry.

"He's apparently travelling outside of Egypt, so we're seeking to make contact with him so that I can register our deep concerns about this case and the verdict," she said of Shoukry.

"We're also taking steps to lodge a formal diplomatic-level request of the president, that he intervene in the proceedings at this stage."

- No 'megaphone diplomacy' -

She said her understanding was that President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi cannot consider a plea of clemency or a pardon until all legal proceedings have been concluded, and that includes an appeal.

Greste's emotional mother Lois said they were mulling their options.

"We've got to consider all options and, until we have all those on the table, we cannot make a decision," she said of an appeal.

Bishop said al-Sisi had an opportunity to prove his democratic credentials.

"The new Egyptian government has an opportunity to prove to the world that it is on the path to democracy, that it does believe in freedom of speech and freedom of the press, which are the pillars of democracy," she said.

"And so we hope that our representations to the new government will see Peter Greste home as soon as possible."

Prime Minister Tony Abbott, who spoke to al-Sisi over the weekend urging clemency, said he was "bewildered" at the court decision but said he would not engage in "unhelpful megaphone diplomacy".

"The Egyptian court system does work at arms length from the government, but I do understand that once the court system has done its work then there are options for presidential acts, presidential clemency, presidential pardons and so on," he said.

Since the army ousted Islamist president Mohamed Morsi in July 2013, the authorities in Egypt have been incensed by Qatar-based Al-Jazeera's coverage of their deadly crackdown on his supporters.

They consider the network to be the voice of Qatar and accuse it of backing Morsi's Muslim Brotherhood, while the emirate openly denounces a repression of its supporters that has left more than 1,400 people dead.

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