Australians vented their outrage Monday and threatened to boycott Egypt as journalist Peter Greste was jailed for seven years on charges of defamation and conspiring to falsify news. Greste was also convicted of aiding the Muslim Brotherhood – a claim he vehemently denies.
Egyptian authorities arrested Greste, who works for Al-Jazeera, last year along with two of his colleagues in Cairo. The Egyptian interior ministry claimed their reporting was “damaging to national security,” though observers say evidence presented in the trial didn’t prove those accusations.
Greste’s Brisbane-based family reeled from the shock of the verdict in a reaction beamed live to the world on Youtube.
A family friend has described the family as “absolutely devastated” at the unexpected outcome of the trial and social media has lit up with messages of support for the family.
Using the hashtag #Journalismisnotacrime, many Australians are calling for a boycott on tourism in Egypt until justice is served.
The Greste family said they are shocked by the harsh verdict, and the Australian government has urged Egypt to reflect on the message they are sending to the world.
“We are deeply concerned that this verdict is part of a broader attempt to muzzle the press freedom that upholds democracies around the world,” Foreign Minister Julia Bishop said, adding that the Australian government is “deeply dismayed” by the verdict and the severe sentence.
“We are shocked by this verdict,” she said at a press conference. “We are deeply disappointed that a court could come to this decision, and quite simply we do not understand how a court could have come to this decision based on the evidence.” She added: “Peter Greste is a well respected Australian journalist. He was not there to support the Muslim Brotherhood.”
The Greste family is expected to speak with the Australian media at 10am Tuesday AEST, as Egypt’s ambassador to Egypt meets with the Foreign Affairs and Trade authorities.