Egypt has been widely condemned after finding three Al Jazeera English journalists guilty on charges of aiding the Muslim Brotherhood and reporting false news.
Peter Greste, Mohamed Fahmy and Baher Mohamed were found guilty by a Cairo court on Monday and jailed for seven years. Mohamed was jailed for three additional years for possessing ammunition.
The Netherlands and the UK said they would summon the Egyptian ambassador over the sentencing. The Dutch foreign ministry said that the “minimum requirements for a fair trial were not met”.
“I am appalled by the guilty verdicts handed down today against Egyptian and international journalists in Egypt,” the UK foreign secretary, William Hague, said in a statement.
“I am particularly concerned by unacceptable procedural shortcomings during the trial process, including that key prosecution evidence was not made available to the defence team.“
The Canadian ambassador David Drake, who attended the session for Fahmy, an Egyptian-Canadian, said there were many questions over the verdict.
“We are very disappointed,” he said. “We are digesting this … We don’t understand this particular verdict.”
Greste, an Australian, was backed by his government, with his prime minister, Tony Abbott, telling Abdel-Fattah el-Sisi, the Egyptian president, that he was innocent of all charges.
“Peter Greste would not have been supporting the Muslim Brotherhood, he would have simply been reporting on the Muslim Brotherhood,” Abbott said.
“As an Australian journalist, Peter Greste would not have been taking sides. He would have simply been reporting on the events that he saw before him. He certainly would have had no interest in promoting the Muslim Brotherhood.”
British ambassador to Egypt, James Watt, also said he was disappointed, adding, “Freedom of expression is fundamental to any democracy.”
Social media users expressed their disgust in the hundreds of thousands using the #AJtrial and #FreeAJStaff hashtags. Thousands of journalists also used the hashtags to voice their opposition to the verdicts.
Christiane Amanpour, CNN’s chief international correspondent, called the verdicts a “travesty” on Twitter and questioned a US decision to give the Egyptian government $500m in military aid.
The BBC’s Middle East editor, Jeremy Bowen, said on Twitter that the sentences were “disgraceful”.
“Egyptian euphoria after Mubarak’s fall feels a world away,” he added.
Amnesty international described the verdicts as a “dark day for media freedom” while Human Rights Watch said they were “a stark admission that in today’s Egypt, simply practising professional journalism is a crime … the new constitution’s guarantees of free expression are not worth the paper they are written on”.
Al Jazeera rejected the verdicts and called on Egypt to release its staff immediately.