| SYDNEY, June 24
SYDNEY, June 24 The parents of Australian
journalist Peter Greste, one of three Al Jazeera journalists
jailed for seven years each by an Egyptian judge, have called
the verdict an attack on free speech everywhere that has left
The three journalists all denied the charge of working with
the now banned Muslim Brotherhood. They have been held at
Egypt's notorious Tora Prison for six months, with the case
becoming a rallying point for rights groups and news
organisations around the world.
"This man, our son, Peter, is an award winning journalist.
He is not a criminal. He is not a criminal," his father, Juris
Greste, told a news conference in Brisbane on Tuesday.
"To us, it is not just affecting the Greste family. We put
it to you that it is also a slap in the face and a kick in the
groin to Australia as well as all fair minded people around the
world," he added.
Greste was sentenced along with Egyptian producer Baher
Mohamed and Canadian-Egyptian national Mohamed Fahmy, Cairo
bureau chief of Al Jazeera English.
Cairo defended the journalists' convictions - for aiding a
"terrorist organisation" - and rejected the widespread
condemnation as "interference in its internal affairs".
The Greste family said that they had not yet decided what
their next step would be in attempting to free their son and his
Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott struck a cautious tone
on Tuesday, somewhat softening his government's furious initial
reaction on Monday, perhaps in the hopes of securing their
release through diplomatic or other extra-judicial channels.
"I do understand that once the court system has done its
work, there are options for presidential acts - presidential
clemency, presidential pardons and so on - and that's why I'm
not in the business of being critical of the government as
such," Abbott told reporters in Canberra.
"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."
Earlier, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry called Egypt's
foreign minister to register his "serious displeasure" at the
"chilling, draconian sentences".
The three men were detained in late December and charged
with helping "a terrorist group" - a reference to the Muslim
brotherhood - by broadcasting lies that harmed national security
and supplying money, equipment and information to a group of
The Brotherhood was banned and declared a terrorist group
after the army deposed elected Islamist president Mohamed Mursi
in July following mass protests against his rule. The
Brotherhood says it is a peaceful organisation.
(Reporting by Matt Siegel; Editing by Jeremy Laurence)