Al Jazeera journalists case in Egypt: Juris and Lois Greste ask "what about the others?"
In the lead up to World Press Freedom Day on May 3rd, the parents of Al Jazeera journalist Peter Greste, who was recently released from prison in Egypt, remain concerned about his colleagues Baher Mohamed and Mohamed Fahmy.
As we proudly watched our son Peter Greste finally speak outside the Tora fortress that had been his prison for more than a year, addressing an audience filled with politicians and journalists at the National Press Club in Canberra, our pride couldn’t help be tinged by the knowledge this freedom couldn’t be shared by his Al Jazeera colleagues, Mohamed and Baher.
These welcoming faces felt a long way from June 2014, when Peter, Mohamed Fahmy and Baher Mohamed, the ‘Al Jazeera three’ as they’d become known, were sentenced to between seven and 10 years in prison on charges of broadcasting false news and aiding the now outlawed Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt. This nightmare had followed their arrest on the 29th of December, 2013, for simply doing their jobs and was without a doubt the lowest point in the campaign to have all three released.
Nearly 400 days since their arrest, in late January 2015, the moment we’d been waiting for finally arrived: we received news that Peter was to be deported from Egypt.
Peter, a dual Australian-Latvian national, and Mohamed Fahmy, a dual Egyptian-Canadian national, had sought deportation under the new Egyptian legislation or presidential decree, allowing the transfer of foreign nationals to their home countries to face trial or serve their sentences in cases of the "highest interest of the state". By February 1, Peter was on his way home.
While Peter’s colleagues, Mohamed and Baher were released on February 13 shortly after he was deported from the country, their battle was far from over. Mohamed had to renounce his Egyptian citizenship, hoping the fact he is also a Canadian citizen would mean he would be deported like Peter. Instead, he was asked to deposit about 250,000 Egyptian pounds ($42,000) to be freed on bail, awaiting a retrial.
The saddest part about this story is not that Baher and Mohamed remain in Egypt, on bail awaiting their retrial today and the chance to prove their innocence. It’s that Peter’s, Baher’s and Mohamed’s cases are not unique.
As World Press Freedom day approaches on May 3, journalists right around the world are coming under increasing attack for merely doing their jobs. Where once the blue press jacket was a symbol of protection for foreign correspondents and journalists, it has now sadly become a target.
In Egypt at least 16,000 people have been detained as part of a sweeping crackdown on dissent, with activists estimating that the true figure is much higher. Other journalists and bloggers are facing lengthy jail sentences with a long and unpredictable wait for justice.
Even in our darkest moments, we were buoyed by the support we received from strangers and friends alike, calling for their immediate release. As it has in the past, we’re hopeful these collective voices will see justice prevail and we can celebrate unconditionally when these men are finally freed.
If Peter is free, so should his work colleagues Baher and Mohamed. They are part of the same court case, tried together.
TAKE ACTION to end an unfair retrial and unconditionally free Baher Mohamed and Mohamed Fahmy