Dad of jailed reporter: Son a victim of injustice

July 31, 2014 - 7:06 AM

NAIROBI, Kenya (AP) — The father of an Australian Al-Jazeera journalist jailed in Egypt said Thursday that he respects the integrity of Egypt's courts but knows his son is the victim of injustice.

Peter Greste is appealing his seven-year prison sentence after a court in June found that he and two other Al-Jazeera journalists aided the Muslim Brotherhood, which Egypt classifies as a terrorist organization.

Greste was based in Kenya before traveling to Egypt to cover events there. His parents, Juris and Lois Greste, spoke with journalists in Nairobi on Thursday and thanked members of the Foreign Correspondents Association of East Africa for helping to publicize their son's case.

The convictions of Greste and two colleagues — Egyptian-Canadian acting bureau chief Mohammed Fahmy and Egyptian producer Baher Mohammed — caused an international outcry, especially from media rights groups who say the three were simply reporting the news and that the charges of terrorism were not proved in court.

Juris Greste said the family is now concentrating on appealing the verdict. The appeal must be filed by around Aug. 22. Juris Greste said the family accepts the integrity and independence of any country's judicial system and administration of law.

"In no way would we want to challenge that," he said. "However, we passionately and absolutely know that a grave and very serious injustice has taken place in Peter's case, and we won't shy away from professing that position as long as we can. ... So generally we would still encourage you to maintain your interest in the cause of getting Peter out of jail."

The parents said their son is allowed a 45-minute visit with family once every 14 days, but that the meetings fly by because of all of the legal conversations that must take place.

They said that Peter Greste is now taking a program of study with Griffith University in Brisbane, Australia that allows him something to focus on in prison. The course of study could lead to a master's degree in international studies.

Asked if they could predict how long they think their son might end up staying in prison, where he's now been for eight months, Juris Greste said that if their son loses the upcoming appeal, a second appeal could be lodged, a process that could take another year.

Lois Greste said: "And of course we would welcome an earlier release than that. I certainly hope it doesn't go to 12 months by any means. If there's enough pressure put on the courts we might be able to reduce the time span and get this through fairly quickly."

Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi has rejected calls from the United States and other Western governments to pardon or commute the sentences of the three journalists. In early July he acknowledged that the heavy sentences had a "very negative" impact on his country's reputation and that he wished they had never been put on trial.