An Egyptian court has denied Al Jazeera journalist Peter Greste’s appeal against his ongoing detention without trial.
The Australian journalist is being held in Cairo with colleagues from Al Jazeera English, Baher Mohammed and Mohammed Fahmy. The authorities are also holding Al Jazeera Mubasher Misr’s Mohammed Badr and Al Jazeera Arabic’s Abdulla Shami. None of them have been charged.
His parents, Lois and Juris Greste from Brisbane, told Australian media they were at “breaking point” after receiving news their son would go on trial for “airing false news”. Reports, quoting a statement from the prosecutor’s office, said 16 Egyptians would face trial for membership of “a terrorist organisation” and that four foreigners, identified as Al Jazeera journalists, would be charged with aiding their activities.
“The world knows these allegations against our journalists are absurd, baseless and false,” said Al Jazeera spokesperson Osama Saeed. “This is a challenge to free speech, to the right of journalists to report on all aspects of events, and to the right of people to know what is going on.
“We will continue to pursue all avenues to get our journalists back, and are grateful for all the support we have received. It is clear this is not just Al Jazeera’s campaign, but one taken on by all freedom-loving people around the world.”
Al Jazeera added that it had no knowledge of other people apparently being pursued by the authorities. The network currently has no journalists reporting in the country.
Al Jazeera English held a news conference in London on Wednesday calling on Egyptian authorities to immediately release the five journalists. The press conference was held a month after Greste, Fahmy and Mohammed were detained in Cairo while on assignment for Al Jazeera English on 29 December 2013. Sam Kiley of Sky News, Jonathan Baker of the BBC College of Journalism, and Peter Oborne from the Daily Telegraph, supported it.
Greste has written letters from Tora Prison, where he is being held. “The state will not tolerate hearing from the Muslim Brotherhood or any other critical voices,” he wrote. “The prisons are overflowing with anyone who opposes or challenges the government.”
Scores of journalists worldwide, along with organisations involved in media freedom, have joined the call for the journalists’ release, including: the Committee to Protect Journalists, Reporters Without Borders, and the International News Safety Institute.