Egypt summons British envoy over criticism of al Jazeera trial

Al Jazeera television journalist Mohamed Fahmy, C, talks to the media, with his wife, Marwa Omara, L, and lawyer Amal Clooney (R), before hearing the verdict at a court in Cairo, Egypt, August 29, 2015. REUTERS/Asmaa Waguih

Al Jazeera television journalist Mohamed Fahmy, C, talks to the media, with his wife, Marwa Omara, L, and lawyer Amal Clooney (R), before hearing the verdict at a court in Cairo, Egypt, August 29, 2015. REUTERS/Asmaa Waguih

Egypt’s foreign ministry on Sunday summoned the British ambassador over his criticism of prison sentences handed to three journalists from Qatari broadcaster Al-Jazeera.

“What counts is the Egyptian people’s confidence in the transparency and independence of the Egyptian judiciary,” the foreign ministry said, calling ambassador John Casson’s comments “unacceptable interference”.

“Egypt needs lessons from no one,” it said.

A Cairo court on Saturday sentenced Australian journalist Peter Greste, Canadian Mohamed Fahmy and Egyptian producer Baher Mohamed to three years in prison for having broadcast “false” news and for having worked without the necessary permits.

They were accused of having supported the Muslim Brotherhood with their coverage, after then-army chief Abdel Fattah al-Sisi ousted the Brotherhood’s president Mohamed Morsi in 2013.

After having attended Saturday’s court hearing, the ambassador critised the proceedings in a statement on his Facebook page.

“This case… has become a symbol of the basis for stability in the new Egypt,” he said.

“The question today is whether this will be a fragile and temporary stability on the basis of suspending freedoms of media and expression and depriving individuals of their rights in the Egyptian constitution?

“I am concerned that today’s ruling will undermine confidence in the basis of Egypt’s stability, both in Egypt and abroad,” he said.

Fahmy and Mohamed were immediately detained after the verdict on Saturday, but Greste was tried in absentia after being deported earlier this year.

The verdict sparked condemnation worldwide.

Canada urged Egypt to allow for Fahmy’s immediate return to Canada, after he renounced his Egyptian nationality in order to be deported like his Australian colleague.

Washington said it was “deeply disappointed and concerned” by the trial’s outcome.



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