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Journalists' sentence 'chilling' - Kerry

Published:Tuesday | June 24, 2014 | 12:00 AM


United States Secretary of State John Kerry says that the sentencing of three Al-Jazeera journalists in Cairo to seven-to 10-year prison terms is chilling. He says he is voicing his concern to Egypt's foreign minister.

Kerry said the verdict flies in the face of the essential ingredients of a civil society and free press. He urged Egypt to move quickly to address international concerns.

The verdicts on terrorism charges against the three, Australian Peter Greste, Canadian-Egyptian Mohamed Fahmy and Egyptian Baher Mohammed, come after a five-month trial that Amnesty International describe as a "sham". The three contend they were prosecuted for doing their jobs as journalists.

Meanwhile, Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott disclosed yesterday that he told Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi that the jailed Australian journalist is innocent of charges that he supported the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood.

Ahead of yesterday's verdict, Abbott, a former journalist, said he raised Greste's case in a conversation with the newly appointed Egyptian leader over the weekend.

"I did make the point that as an Australian journalist, Peter Greste would not have been supporting the Muslim Brotherhood, he would have simply been reporting on the Muslim Brotherhood," Abbott told reporters.

"The point I made was that in the long run, a free and vigorous media are good for democracy, good for security, (and) good for stability," he said.