World leaders have condemned Egypt over the jailing of Australian journalist Peter Greste, while Australia plans another direct appeal to the new president to secure his release.
Anger has erupted over the jailing of Greste and two other Al Jazeera journalists, with US Secretary of State John Kerry calling it ‘chilling’ and ‘draconian’.
UN human rights chief Navi Pillay says it’s clear the real target in Egypt is freedom of expression and the jailing of the journalists is alarming.
Australia is already planning its next appeal to Egypt’s new President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, as the Greens call for the consideration of sanctions.
‘President al-Sisi must now free them or alternatively we need to have all diplomatic options, including sanctions, on the table,’ Greens Leader Christine Milne said.
Foreign Minister Julie Bishop says the government is dismayed by the seven-year sentence handed to Greste for spreading false news and aiding the blacklisted Muslim Brotherhood after the overthrow of Islamist president Mohamed Morsi.
As the journalist’s family weighs an appeal, Ms Bishop says Australia will seek to make another approach to the new president.
It’s hoped he might intervene before the appeals process can play out and commute their sentences, as the US has demanded.
A final glimmer of hope would be a presidential pardon.
The Australian government will on Tuesday call in the Egyptian ambassador in Canberra to express its deep concern and appeal for Greste’s release.
But the Egyptian foreign ministry is already defending the action of the court, saying the country’s judiciary is independent and due process was followed in the case.
Greste’s Brisbane-based parents have been left in despair after learning their son’s fate on Monday night.
They’d earlier said anything short of an acquittal was unthinkable.
‘Seven years … my God,’ his mother Lois gasped.
‘That’s crazy, that’s crazy, that’s absolutely crazy,’ his visibly distressed father Juris said.
The journalist himself reacted with a blank stare as he sat alongside his colleagues in an Egyptian court room and was told he’d been handed a seven-year jail term. His colleagues got seven and 10 years.
As the court erupted, Greste’s disbelief boiled over as he smashed his palms against the wire cage that held him.
Greste’s brothers, Andrew and Mike, were in court for the verdict and described the scene as chaotic.
Andrew has told the ABC he wasn’t able to talk to his brother and the judge offered no explanation for the verdicts.
‘Just devastated. I’m gutted. It’s just unbelievable really,’ he said.
He said his family would now be exploring all options to free Peter.
‘He’s not going to give up, and we won’t give up as a family.’