“I am devastated and outraged by Monday’s verdict,” said Australian Al-Jazeera correspondent Peter Greste in a statement, his first since he was sentenced to seven years in jail.
“Throughout this trial, the prosecutor has consistently failed to present a single piece of concrete evidence to support the outrageous allegations against us,” he said in his statement published by Al-Jazeera, highlighting “procedural errors, irregularities and abuses of due process” that should have discredited the case.
“That is why I intend to do everything and consider all possible measures to overturn this conviction.
“The verdict confirms that our trial was never simply about the charges against us. It has been an attempt to use the court to intimidate and silence critical voices in the media,” he added.
The United Nations Correspondents Association (UNCA) on Wednesday called on the Egyptian government to uphold its international obligations in light of the sentencing of three Al-Jazeera journalists.
“Journalism is not a crime,” said the UNCA in a letter addressed to Egypt’s permanent representative to the UN Moataz Khalil, with whom the UN body also requested an “urgent meeting” to discuss the recent verdicts.
“The conversation is no longer about the daily news in Cairo, the protests, the demonstrations,” said President of Al-Jazeera America Kate O’Brien, who attended an emergency UNCA town hall meeting on Wednesday in New York City. “The world has changed this conversation, it is now a global call for press freedom a collective cry for the basic right for the freedom of speech everywhere,” she added.
Deputy Director of the Committee to Protect Journalists Robert Mahoney, who was also in attendance, said that 14 journalists are currently being detained in Egypt. “That makes Egypt on our reckoning, the biggest jailor of journalists in the Arab world- more than Syria where there are about 12,” he said. “That’s not a record that any country should be happy to have,” said Mahoney, who urged Egyptian President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi to do everything in his power to release detained members of the press.
Khalil’s deputy Osama Mahmoud was at the meeting, but said he could not provide a specific time frame for the ensuing legal procedures for an appeal, saying it would likely happen within “three to four months”.
Mahmoud also said that about 1,200 foreign journalists in Egypt and pointed out that “they weren’t all arrested” and claimed they were free to work without harassment or annoyance.
On Monday Greste and Canadian Egyptian Mohamed Fahmy were each sentenced to seven years in a maximum security prison, while their colleague Egyptian Baher Mohamed was handed ten years.
Fahmy, according to Aswat Masriya, decided to donate EGP 15,000 to the “Long live Egypt” fund, an initiative started by Al-Sisi as part of his plan to revive Egypt’s ailing economy.