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Aus journo family encouraged by Sisi comments

07 July 2014, 22:32

Sydney - The family of jailed journalist Peter Greste on Monday said they were encouraged by Egypt's President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi saying he "wished" the Australian had never been put on trial.

The case of Greste and two Al Jazeera colleagues - Canadian-Egyptian Mohamed Fahmy and Egyptian national Baher Mohamed - has sparked a global outcry and demands for a presidential pardon.

They were sentenced to between seven and 10 years in jail for allegedly defaming Egypt and aiding banned Islamists.

In a briefing with Egyptian editors, Sisi conceded the June 23 sentencing had had a "very negative effect", according to the Al-Masry Al-Youm daily.

"The sentencing of several journalists had a very negative effect, and we had nothing to do with it," the former army chief, who won elections in May, was quoted as saying.

Images of Peter

"I wish they were deported after their arrest, instead of being put on trial," he added, apparently referring to Greste, the sole non-Egyptian.

Australia has made clear it thinks the trial was politically motivated.

Greste's brother Andrew, who has just returned from Egypt, welcomed Sisi's comments as "heartening".

"I'm sure images of Peter in the cage in the court are not images Egypt really want distributed around the world," he told reporters in Brisbane.

"And the publicity they're getting out of this I'm sure is not the publicity any country would want."

Amicable solution

He said he was not sure if the president's comments would lead to a resolution, with Sisi previously saying he would not interfere in the judicial process.

"I'd like to think that there's things happening at all levels ... and every one can talk about it and seek an amicable solution," the brother said.

Greste's parents visited their son in jail for the first time since his arrest last week, calling it a "horrendous experience".

His mother Lois Greste said her son, who was "very sombre", had been moved to a different prison where he was being kept in a "dormitory-like situation" with about nine others.

The Al Jazeera ruling is the latest issue in Egypt to stoke concern among rights groups since a 2011 uprising toppled long-time autocrat Hosni Mubarak.

Since the army ousted Islamist president Mohammed Morsi in July 2013, political unrest has reached unprecedented levels in Egypt, with more than 1,400 people killed and at least 15 000 jailed in a government crackdown.



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