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Egypt urged to free Al Jazeera journalists

Terry Waite and BBC's Alan Johnston, both former hostages, join Amnesty in plea for the release of Al Jazeera staff.

Last updated: 20 Jun 2014 23:55
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Former hostages Terry Waite and BBC correspondent Alan Johnston have joined Amnesty International in calling on the Egyptian government to release three Al Jazeera journalists held in Egypt.

The combined plea for the release of Peter Greste, Baher Mohammed and Mohammed Fahmy on Friday came ahead of the announcement of the verdict in their case, which is due on Monday 23 June.

Egyptian authorities would do themselves a great credit if they release the Al Jazeera three, as this is a chance for Egypt to start a new future if it is going to restore credibility.

- Terry Waite

Terry Waite, who was held captive for over 1,700 days in Lebanon after attempting to negotiate the release of other prisoners in the 1980s, said: "Egyptian authorities would do themselves a great credit if they release the Al Jazeera three, as this is a chance for Egypt to start a new future if it is going to restore credibility."

BBC's Johnston, who was kidnapped in Gaza City in 2007 and held for 114 days, said how a worldwide campaign had helped him being freed.

The campaign to help release the Al Jazeera three has raised awareness but also highlighted "the wider issue of journalists being incarcerated for doing their jobs," Johnston said, speaking at the Frontline Club in London via video link.

He further added that "journalists need protection as it is their job to expose corruption and wrongdoing around the world".

Amnesty International's Nicholas Piachaud pledged his organisation would continue the campaign because "journalism is on trial here".

He further added that "the trial of Al Jazeera's journalists has sent a clear message to both the international and domestic media that Egypt does not tolerate dissent, but if the three journalists are not released then Egypt's constitution is not worth the paper it is written on".

Greste, Mohammed and Fahmy were arrested in Cairo on December 29 and charged with reporting news that was "damaging to national security".

Abdullah Elshamy freed

Al Jazeera Arabic correspondent Abdullah Elshamy was released this week after being detained without charge since August 2013. Elshamy was freed on medical grounds after spending five months on a hunger strike.

Upon his release, Elshamy said: "I call on everyone to remember my colleagues Peter, Mohammed and Baher, and that they soon will be released and reunited with their families."

Calls for the release of all Al Jazeera staff have been made by the US White House, the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office and the European Union.

Similarly, prominent media personalities have given public support to the #FreeAJStaff campaign, which has had over 1.2 billion impressions on Twitter through the support of over 60,000 people.

Various media freedom and human rights groups, ranging from the Committee to Protect Journalists, the International Press Institute, Amnesty International and the Foreign Correspondents Association of East Africa, have also issued pleas for the release of the journalists.

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Source:
Al Jazeera
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