“We will not interfere in judicial rulings” proclaimed Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi amid international outcry over the lengthy prison sentences handed to three Al Jazeera journalists.
They were each jailed for seven years for aiding the now-outlawed Muslim Brotherhood.
“If we desire (strong) state institutions we must respect court rulings and not comment on them, even if others don’t understand these rulings,” Sisi announced.
All three have denied the charge of working with the group, now deemed a terrorist organisation.
The sentences were widely criticised by rights groups and Western governments, with US Secretary of State John Kerry calling them “chilling and draconian” and the United Nations warning of “a risk that miscarriage of justice is becoming the norm in Egypt”.
One of the convicted journalists is Australian Peter Greste. Australia has called in a senior Egyptian diplomat – the deputy ambassador – to protest against the guilty verdict and jail term.
“What we don’t want to do is engage in unhelpful megaphone diplomacy because that won’t do Peter Greste any good, it won’t do his two Al Jazeera colleagues any good,” said Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott. What we want to do is talk calmly and patiently and reasonably to the Egyptian government.”
Egyptian producer Baher Mohamed and Cairo bureau chief of Al Jazeera English, Canadian-Egyptian national Mohamed Fahmy were sentenced alongside Greste. Prior to the ruling, they had been detained for six months in Egypt’s notorious Tora Prison.