* U.N. rights chief Pillay calls for journalists' release
* Warns of risk miscarriage of justice becoming the norm
* Ban Ki-moon says could undermine prospects for stability
(adds U.N. Secretary-General Ban in new paragraphs 3-4)
GENEVA, June 23 Egypt should free three Al
Jazeera journalists who were jailed on Monday for seven years
and stop the "obscene" practice of holding mass trials of
government opponents that end in death penalties, U.N. human
rights chief Navi Pillay said.
"Egypt's reputation, and especially the reputation of its
judiciary as an independent institution, are at stake," she said
in a statement. "There is a risk that miscarriage of justice is
becoming the norm in Egypt."
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon is deeply concerned by
the sentencing of the journalists and the death sentences
confirmed on Saturday for 183 Muslim Brotherhood members and
supporters in Egypt, his spokesman said in New York.
"Proceedings that clearly appear not to meet basic fair
trial standards, particularly those resulting in the imposition
of the death penalty, are likely to undermine prospects for
long-term stability," Stephane Dujarric told reporters.
"The Secretary-General stresses that participation in
peaceful protests or criticism of the government should not be
grounds for detention or prosecution."
The journalists were sentenced for helping a "terrorist
organisation" by spreading lies, a verdict that stunned the
courtroom and prompted Britain to summon Egypt's ambassadors to
protest against the judgment.
"Crushing media reporting will only hinder Egypt's efforts
to come through this period of social and political turmoil,"
Pillay said. The sentences can be appealed, but the charges were
"far too broad and vague, and therefore reinforce the belief
that the real target is freedom of expression", she said.
The Al Jazeera verdicts and the death sentences are the
latest in a string of prosecutions "rife with procedural
irregularities and in breach of international human rights law",
"I believe these mass trials and death penalty convictions
are obscene, and a complete travesty of justice."
She urged the government to review the laws on which the
trials were based, especially the Anti-Terrorism Law and the
so-called Protest Law used to arrest and convict dozens of
protesters since November 2013.
(Reporting by Tom Miles in Geneva and Michelle Nichols in New
York; editing by Stephanie Nebehay and Mark Heinrich)