June 23, 2014 8:27 pm

Australian PM promises to work for jailed reporter’s return

Al-Jazeera English bureau chief Mohammed Fahmy, left, producer Baher Mohamed, center and correspondent Peter Greste, right, appear in a defendant's cage in a courtroom along with several other defendants during their trial on terror charges, in Cairo, Egypt.

AP Photo/Heba Elkholy, El Shorouk

CANBERRA, Australia – Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott said Tuesday that his government would work to get an imprisoned Australian journalist back from Egypt “as quickly as possible,” adding that Egypt’s new president might intervene in the case.

Australian Peter Greste was one of three Al Jazeera journalists sentenced by a Cairo court on Monday to at least seven years in prison on terrorism-related charges stemming from an interview with the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood.

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“We’re obviously shocked, dismayed, really bewildered by the decision of the court in Egypt,” Abbott told reporters.

He said Australia respects the legitimacy of the Egyptian government, its justice system and the need “to crack down on extremism including the Muslim Brotherhood, but … it is important that there be due process, it is important that decisions be made on a fair and just basis, so we will be talking to the Greste family, we will be talking to the Egyptian government about what we can do to try to ensure that Peter Greste comes home as quickly as possible.”

Abbott said he had a “very constructive discussion” on the weekend with Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi on the issue.

READ MORE: Egyptian-Canadian journalist Mohamed Fahmy gets 7 years in prison

“My understanding is that the Egyptian court system does work at arm’s length from the government, but I do understand that once the court system has done its work, then there are options for presidential acts – presidential clemency, presidential pardons and so on – that’s why I’m not in the business of being critical of the government,” Abbott said.

The Australia’s Foreign Department has called in Egypt’s deputy ambassador to make an official objection to the court ruling. The ambassador is currently in Cairo.

© The Canadian Press, 2014

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