Greste case a global priority, says Ambassador

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The case of jailed Latvian-Australian journalist Peter Greste remains a high priority in international politics, Latvia’s Ambassador to Egypt Iveta Šulca told national information agency LETA Friday.

She explained that the first appeal hearing for the three journalists – Greste and his two Egyptian colleagues Baher Mohamed and Mohamed Fatmy – is coming up in the first days of January next week.

The three men were working as Qatar-based news network Al Jazeera’s field team in Cairo when they were arrested and detained by authorities last December, then tried and sentenced to multiple-year sentences by a Cairo court in a widely-condemned June trial for falsifying news reports and aiding the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood.

“Together with Australia’s ambassador to Egypt we have requested an explanation from their Justice Ministry as to the new presidential decree. As there is currently no parliament in Egypt, last month the president passed a decree that allows for foreigners and citizens of other countries to be deported. We will need to look at how this decree could affect the appeals court decision,” Šulca said.

In October Greste received his Latvian passport at the Tora Prison, as consular officials were allowed to visit him there and issue the document personally on site. Šulca said that Greste’s Latvian and therefore EU citizenship was “an important addition” to what has been accomplished thus far.

“The passport is being kept safe by Greste’s parents, otherwise it would have been confiscated from him immediately upon issuance,” the ambassador explained.

“I think it’s Latvia’s success story how we are backing up Australia’s efforts. Latvia and Australia are speaking the same language today,” she said, adding that their diplomats’ combined efforts had made the Greste case a high priority in international politics.

“Foreign Minister Edgars Rinkēvičs already in June got all of the EU ministers on the same page… Greste himself has said that the only acceptable ruling in his case would be an overturning of the guilty verdict. Exactly the same position as Latvia’s government,” she concluded.

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