The White House on Monday called on Egypt’s President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi to pardon three Al Jazeera journalists sentenced to long jail terms or to commute their sentences.
“We call on the Egyptian government to pardon these individuals or commute their sentences so that they can be released immediately and [to] grant clemency for all politically motivated sentences,” said White House spokesman Josh Earnest.
The White House called for clemency after Secretary of State John Kerry — a day after visiting Cairo — called the verdicts handed down against the journalists “chilling and draconian.”
An Egyptian court earlier sentenced the three Al Jazeera journalists to jail terms ranging from seven to 10 years, accusing them of aiding the blacklisted Muslim Brotherhood.
Australian Peter Greste and Egyptian-Canadian Mohamed Fadel Fahmy each got seven years, while Egyptian producer Baher Mohamed received two sentences — one for seven years and another for three.
“The prosecution of journalists for reporting information that does not coincide with the government of Egypt’s narrative flouts the most basic standards of media freedom and represents a blow to democratic progress in Egypt,” Earnest said.
“Perhaps most disturbing, is [that] this verdict comes as part of the succession of prosecutions and verdicts that are fundamentally incompatible with the basic precepts of human rights and democratic governance.
“We strongly urge President El-Sisi, in the spirit of his pledge to review all human rights legislation, to provide the protections for free expression and assembly as well as the fair trial safeguards that are required by Egypt’s international obligations.”