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Journalists' jail sentences complicate Egyptian ambassador's mission in London

June 26, 2014 at 3:10 pm

Despite Egypt’s closure of Al-Jazeera‘s offices in Cairo, arrest of its correspondents and demonising the channel in mainstream media, it seems that Al-Jazeera has been chasing General Abdel Fatah Al-Sisi and his ambassadors all over the world.

In Britain, the mission of Ambassador Ashraf Al-Kholy to convince the British foreign ministry that the military’s overthrow of Mohamed Morsi heralded a new era of freedoms and democratic transition has seemingly become impossible.

Al-Kholy tried to explain to Egyptian media that his summoning by the British Foreign Office was a “normal diplomatic move” to voice Britain’s concerns and to “politely reject” the sentencing of journalists. The statements by the foreign office however indicated that the man was in no enviable position.

In statements to Arabi21, the spokeswoman of the British Foreign Office Farah Dakhlallah said that Foreign Secretary William Hague has strongly condemned the verdicts against Al-Jazeera journalists and the 183 death sentences against Morsi supporters.

She pointed out that such verdicts undermine international confidence in the future of political stability in Egypt, confirming that Britain is deeply concerned about the human rights situation in the country.

“The UK believes that the best way for Egyptians to fulfil the goals of the January 25 revolution is through an inclusive political process in which all political groups have a stake,” Dakhlallah said.

Statements by the British foreign secretary contradict Al-Kholy’s assertion that the UK was softly expressing rejection of the sentences. Following the verdicts, Hague said: “I am particularly concerned by unacceptable procedural shortcomings during the trial process, including that key prosecution evidence was not made available to the defence team. Freedom of the press is a cornerstone of a stable and prosperous society.”

Similarly, the London-based Amnesty International slammed the sentences as a “ferocious attack on media freedoms”.

“This is a devastating verdict for the men and their families, and a dark day for media freedom in Egypt, when journalists are being locked up and branded criminals or ‘terrorists’ simply for doing their job,” said Philip Luther, Director of the Middle East and North Africa at Amnesty International.

“The trial was a complete sham. Consigning these men to years in prison after such a farcical spectacle is a travesty of justice,” he added.

The latest jail sentences and the corresponding UK government’s position, coupled with Amnesty’s, have further complicated Al-Kholy’s mission in London, dealing a blow to all his efforts to portray the coup as a revolution.