Australia seeks return of Al Jazeera journalist Peter Greste jailed in Egypt
The lawyer for one of three Al Jazeera journalists jailed in Egypt has formally applied to the government in Cairo to have him deported to Australia.
It comes after Egypt’s highest court, the Court of Cassation, ordered a retrial, citing “procedural flaws” in the original proceedings which sparked international outrage.
Australian Peter Greste, Canadian-Egyptian Mohamed Fahmy and Egyptian Baher Mohamed were sentenced to seven to 10 years jail on charges including spreading lies to helping a “terrorist organisation” – a reference to the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood.
A cameraman was arrested but released.
“They did change the law recently and that enables there to be a kind of prisoner transfer, or an accused person can be transferred back to another country, their home country, and we’re pursuing all those opportunities now,” said Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop.
Despite the order of a retrial there is anger that the journalists – who say they were just reporting the news – have not been freed.
The trio were not given bail and therefore must stay behind bars until the retrial.
The reporters’ imprisonment has been a thorny issue for Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi as he seeks to prove his commitment to democratic reforms.
“Now that Peter is essentially an innocent man, he’s not convicted any more, it does allow for some room to move and for him (Sisi) to step in … and deport him,” Greste’s brother Andrew told reporters in Brisbane.
Defence attorneys said earlier in Cairo that new proceedings could begin within a month.
Despite the widespread criticism of the case, Sisi has cited the independence of the judiciary. However, he said in November he would have preferred to have deported Greste had he been in power when the journalists were arrested in December 2013.
“By calling for a retrial the Egyptian courts are prolonging the injustice that Mohamed Fahmy, Peter Greste and Baher Mohamed have faced,” said Amnesty International’s Hassiba Hadjsahraoui in a statement.
“These men should never have been jailed in the first place and should not have to spend one more day in prison. Instead of prolonging their unjust detention pending a retrial, they must be freed immediately,” explained Hadjsahraoui.