Al Jazeera’s Greste fears Egypt guilty verdict

Journalist Peter Greste says he may be found guilty in absentia for not appearing at his retrial on Monday.

Al Jazeera reporter Peter Greste talks during interview with Reuters in Sydney
Peter Greste was deported from Egypt after spending more than a year in jail [Reuters]

Al Jazeera reporter Peter Greste has said he fears he will be found guilty in absentia by the Egyptian court system.

Greste was deported from Egypt after spending more than a year in jail on charges that included aiding a terrorist group. Two other colleagues also face accusations of helping the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood.

The trio and Al Jazeera deny the charges, but a retrial into their alleged offences is due to restart in Cairo on Monday. The retrial has been delayed several times over the past few months.

Greste was told by the judge that he must appear or he will be formally declared on trial in absentia.

“That means I will automatically get a conviction if I don’t appear, but of course I can’t go back because President Sisi deported me, so I’m stuck in this legal limbo,” Greste told the Reuters news agency in an interview published on Friday.

Procedural flaws

The journalist was freed and deported on February 1 after spending 400 days in prison. His two colleagues Mohamed Fahmy and Baher Mohamed were released on bail on February 13.

They were all sentenced to between seven and 10 years in prison last year, but Egypt’s highest court has since ordered a retrial after it found procedural flaws in the initial case.

Since Greste was deported, he has been represented by a lawyer in court hearings.

Speaking from his home country of Australia this week, Greste said “this has never happened before”.

“They have never had a prisoner or a defendant deported from the country while the trial is ongoing so there is no formal legal mechanism for the judge to take me off the case and it’s this weird legal limbo that I’ve finding myself in,” he told Reuters.

He said he is hoping that if they do not dismiss the charges against him, that at least he could appear by video link in the court proceedings. He is still waiting on a response from the Egyptian court.

Earlier this May, Amnesty International accused Egyptian authorities of using courts to stifle journalism. Egypt’s foreign ministry has denied the allegations.

Source: Al Jazeera, Reuters


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