Egypt’s interim president has pledged to help resolve the trial of jailed Australian journalist Peter Greste, in a letter that Al Jazeera Network called an “encouraging sign”.
Greste and two other Al Jazeera English staff members have been held in Egypt for 81 days now, and are charged with spreading false news and aiding the blacklisted Muslim Brotherhood of deposed President Mohamed Morsi, who was overthrown by the army in July.
Al Jazeera rejects the charges against its staff and continues to call for their release.
The case, in which 17 others are also charged, has sparked an international outcry and fuelled fears of a crackdown on the press by the military-installed authorities.
In the letter directed at Greste’s parents, Adly Mansour, the interim president of Egypt appointed after Morsi’s ouster, said: “Notwithstanding the independence of the judiciary authorities and the fullness of all the rights guaranteed by the law, I would like to assure you in my capacity as president of Egypt that I will spare no effort to work towards the speedy resolution of the case, in a fashion consistent with the law, and that guarantees the resumption of the family in the near future.”
As well as signing the letter as “President”, he also used the title “Chief Justice”, indicating his position as the head of the Supreme Constitutional Court, the highest judicial authority in the land.
An Al Jazeera spokesperson on Tuesday said the letter showed Mansour “recognises what we’ve been saying all along – that our journalists were doing their job and have no case to answer.
“We look forward to the authorities implementing the president’s promise to Peter’s family and releasing our journalists forthwith.”
Crackdown on journalists
Correspondent Greste, an award-winning journalist, Egypt bureau chief Mohamed Fadel Fahmy and producer Baher Mohamed have been detained since they were taken from their hotel in Cairo on December 29.
Abdullah al-Shami, from Al Jazeera’s Arabic channel, has been detained for more than six months without charge and has been on a hunger strike since January 23.
Al Jazeera’s correspondents Sue Turton and Dominic Kane, who covered events in Egypt and are now abroad, are being tried in absentia.
The network is currently not allowed to report from Egypt.
Al Jazeera said the allegations against its journalists are “absurd, baseless and false” and consistently denied aiding the Brotherhood, on which the authorities launched a fierce crackdown after the military ousted Morsi.
The trial of three Al Jazeera English journalists in Egypt has been adjourned until March 24.
Institutions including the White House, the European Union and the United Nations have called for the release of the journalists, and for press freedoms to be upheld.
Freedom of speech in Egypt has been the focus of mounting global concern since the government adopted a hardline approach towards journalists.
The country has been ranked the third deadliest destination for journalists in 2013 by the Committee to Protect Journalists.