The Government of Guyana has joined in calls by the international community for the immediate release of three Al Jazeera journalists who are presently in an Egyptian prison.
The journalists – Australian Peter Greste, Canadian-Egyptian national Mohamed Fahmy, Cairo bureau chief of Al Jazeera English and Egyptian producer Baher Mohamed – were jailed for seven years each by an Egyptian judge on Monday, in what were called “chilling, draconian sentences” that must be reversed.
Mohamed was given an extra three years for possessing a single bullet, at the hearing attended by Western diplomats, some of whose governments summoned Egypt’s ambassadors over the case.
In a statement issued through its Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Guyana government expressed deep concern over the sentencing by an Egyptian Court of the three journalists.
It sees the act by the Egyptian authorities as “an affront to the principles which govern press freedom the world over”.
“The Government of Guyana believes that freedom of the press is essential for the full and effective exercise of freedom of expression and an indispensable instrument for the functioning of representative democracy, through which individuals exercise their right to receive, impart and seek information,” the statement said.
The men have been held at Egypt’s notorious Tora Prison for six months, with the case becoming a rallying point for rights groups and news organisations around the world. They were detained in late December and charged with helping “a terrorist group” – a reference to the Muslim Brotherhood – by broadcasting lies that harmed national security and supplying money, equipment and information to a group of Egyptians.
The Brotherhood was banned and declared a terrorist group after the army deposed elected Islamist president Mohamed Mursi in July last year following mass protests against his rule.
The Brotherhood says it is a peaceful organisation.
The three men have all denied the charges.
According to a Reuters report, Cairo defended the journalists’ convictions – for aiding a “terrorist organisation” – and rejected the widespread condemnation as “interference in its internal affairs”.
Meanwhile late yesterday afternoon the ruling People’s Progressive Party also joined in the condemnation of the actions of the Egyptian regime.
The party said that it is convinced that the decision to jail the journalists is political in nature and not the result of any wrongdoing on the part of the journalists. Additionally, the PPP voiced its condemnation over the impending execution of the Spiritual Leader of the Muslim Brotherhood and over 180 others.
The Muslim Brotherhood is led by Mohamed Mursi who is currently behind bars despite the fact that he won Egypt’s first ever democratic elections.
The PPP is of the view that the recently held election which installed Abdel Fattah Sisi as President is “nothing but a farce intended to whitewash his image and that of the military junta and deserves the full condemnation of the free and democratic world”.
“These two latest actions by the military-led government (now in civilian clothing) of military strong man Sisi is consistent with a long list of human rights abuses by the military which is using its military muscle to stifle and suppress the democratic aspirations of the Egyptian people,” the PPP said.
The party joined the call by the United Nations and other concerned individuals and parties for the unconditional release of the jailed journalists and the immediate release of all political prisoners.
In this regard, the PPP said it fully endorses the position taken by the United Nations Human Rights Chief Navi Pillay that there is a risk that miscarriage of justice is becoming a norm in Egypt.