Al Jazeera reporter’s father in plea to Egypt
Juris Greste says his son, Peter, has done nothing wrong, as Egypt announces trial date for him and two colleagues.
The father of Al Jazeera correspondent Peter Greste has pleaded with Egyptians to realise that his son is innocent, as a date for the start of his trial was announced in Cairo.
Greste, Mohammed Fahmy and Baher Mohammed will face their first hearing on February 20, charged with links to a “terrorist organisation” and “spreading false news”.
Greste’s father, Juris, reiterated shortly before the announcement of the date that his son had done nothing wrong.
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“To the Egyptian people, we respectfully insist that Peter is innocent of all allegations against him,” he said. “He is the innocent victim of a challenging time Egypt is living through.”
Mr Greste added that Peter should be judged on the high quality reporting he produced in Egypt.
The three journalists have already been in jail for 45 days. Al Jazeera strongly denies the charges against them.
The Egyptian government has said they have ties to the Muslim Brotherhood, which was declared a terrorist organisation on December 25th.
Abdullah al-Shami, from the station’s Arabic sister channel, is not part of the case. He was arrested in August and is in the third week of a hunger strike to protest his imprisonment.
Another journalist from the media network, Mohamed Badr, was acquitted of a charge that he was involved in rioting in Cairo and has been released.
Last week, Al Jazeera said it was served with a list of 20 peoplebeing pursued by the Egyptian government, but that only nine of those named were on its staff.
Last week, the White House called on Egypt’s government to release the journalists.
“These figures, regardless of affiliation, should be protected and permitted to do their jobs freely in Egypt,” White House spokesman Jay Carney said when asked about their detention.
On Tuesday, US Congressman Hank Johnson pressed the White House on what efforts it was making to pressure the Egyptian leadership to free the journalists.
The UN has also expressed concern about the “increasingly severe clampdown and physical attacks” on journalists in Egypt, including those working for Al Jazeera.
“In recent months, there have been numerous reports of harassment, detention and prosecution of national and international journalists as well as violent attacks,” UN spokesman Rupert Colville said.