Calls for Al Jazeera journalists to be freed

  • 30/08/2015
Al Jazeera television journalist Mohamed Fahmy (C) with wife Marwa Omara and lawyer Amal Clooney (R) (Reuters)
Al Jazeera television journalist Mohamed Fahmy (C) with wife Marwa Omara and lawyer Amal Clooney (R) (Reuters)

The United States says it's "deeply disappointed and concerned" after an Egyptian court sentenced three Al Jazeera reporters to three years in prison, calling for the ruling to be overturned.

"We urge the government of Egypt to take all available measures to redress this verdict, which undermines the very freedom of expression necessary for stability and development," State Department spokesman John Kirby said in a statement on Saturday.

Washington added its heft to growing international outrage at the ruling after the Cairo court said the trio had broadcast "false" news that harmed Egypt.

"The United States is deeply disappointed and concerned by the verdict handed down by an Egyptian court to the three Al Jazeera journalists - Mohamed Fahmy, Baher Mohamed, and Peter Greste," said Kirby.

"The freedom of the press to investigate, report, and comment - even when its perspective is unpopular or disputed - is fundamental to any free society and essential to democratic development."

The Canadian Fahmy and Egyptian producer Baher Mohamed were in court for the verdict, while Australian Greste was tried in absentia after being deported early this year.

Canada wants reporter's immediate release

High-profile human rights lawyer Amal Clooney and Canadian Ambassador Troy Lulashnyk will meet with Egyptian officials to press for a presidential pardon for Al Jazeera journalist Mohamed Fahmy.

Canadian Fahmy was sentenced to three years in prison on 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 verdict today sends a very dangerous message in Egypt," Clooney said outside the Cairo court.

"It sends a message that journalists can be locked up for simply doing their job, for telling the truth and reporting the news.

"And it sends a dangerous message that there are judges in Egypt who will allow their courts to become instruments of political repression and propaganda."

Canada says it's disappointed by the verdict and is calling for Fahmy's "immediate" return.

"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."

The European Union issued a statement on 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.