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International outrage as Egypt jails journalists

US Secretary of State John Kerry yesterday condemned the sentences handed down by an Egyptian court against three Al-Jazeera journalists and 15 others.

During his visit to Iraq, Kerry denounced the verdicts as “chilling”, “draconian” and “a deeply disturbing set-back to Egypt’s transition”. He said the trial “lacked many fundamental norms of due process.”

“Injustices like these simply cannot stand if Egypt is to move forward in the way that President Al-Sisi and Foreign Minister Shoukry told me just yesterday that they aspire to see their country advance,” Kerry added.

“As I shared with President Al-Sisi during my visit to Cairo, the long term success of Egypt and its people depends on the protection of universal human rights, and a real commitment to embracing the aspirations of the Egyptians for a responsive government,” Kerry said.

“Egyptian society is stronger and sustainable when all of its citizens have a say and a stake in its success. Today’s verdicts fly in the face of the essential role of civil society, a free press, and the real rule of law. I spoke with Foreign Minister Shoukry again today to make very clear our deep concerns about these convictions and sentences.

“Yesterday, President Al-Sisi and I frankly discussed these issues and his objectives at the start of his term as president,” he continued. “I call on him to make clear, publicly, his government’s intention to observe Egypt’s commitment to the essential role of civil society, a free press and the rule of law. The Egyptian government should review all of the political sentences and verdicts pronounced during the last few years and consider all available remedies, including pardons.”

Meanwhile, Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop expressed her government’s shock at the sentencing of Australian journalist Peter Greste to seven years in prison. She said: “The Australian government simply cannot understand it based on the evidence that was presented in the case.”

Britain, the Netherlands and Australia summoned Egyptian ambassadors in protest against the verdicts.

British Foreign Secretary William Hague said on Twitter yesterday: “Egypt should review unacceptable sentences against Egyptian and international journalists and show commitment to freedom of the press.”

A statement on the Facebook page of the Dutch embassy in Cairo said: “The Netherlands is very disappointed in the verdict pronounced by the Egyptian judge against the Dutch journalist Rena Netjes.”

It added that the Dutch Minister of Foreign Affairs Frans Timmermans said Netjes “did not have a fair trial”.

“The Netherlands is taking this matter very seriously. Mr Timmermans has summoned the Egyptian Ambassador and will discuss the matter today in Luxembourg with his European counterparts,” the statement added.

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