President promises help to free Greste

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President Andris Berzins told reporters Wednesday that he promises to continue working to help free Peter Greste, the Latvian journalist from Australia who along with two Egyptian colleagues has been sentenced to an extended prison term for allegedly falsifying news and aiding the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood in the aftermath of a coup against the Brotherhood-backed former president, Mohamed Morsi.

Latvia’s president reminded the press that he spoke with Wael Adel Abdellazim Nasr, Egypt’s Ambassador to Latvia upon the occasion of his accreditation on February 11, directing his attention to the case of the Al Jazeera reporter of Latvian descent, whose team had been detained by Egyptian authorities since December. Berzins promised to get involved again henceforth “to the extent necessary.”

The judgement and sentencing of Greste and his associates has attracted widespread international condemnation. Latvian diplomats have repeatedly spoken out for his release while collaborating with their Australian counterparts. On Monday Latvia’s Ambassador to Egypt Iveta Šulca expressed hope that Egyptian President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi’s remarks about “negative consequences” on international relations from the case may mark a turning point toward his eventual release. "I wished they were deported immediately after their arrest instead of being put on trial," said Sisi in comments published by the Al-Masry Al-Youm daily online news Sunday.

Two producers at the Egypt desk of Al Jazeera’s English-language service, Mohamed Fahmi and Baher Mohamed were also tried and sentenced along with Greste, the latter receiving an extra three years for “keeping munitions”, which in this case meant possession of a spent bullet shell picked up from a demonstration site as a souvenir. Much of the evidence presented to the Cairo court by prosecutors in their trial has been widely criticized as “absurd”. The journalists have been in the custody of Egypt’s law enforcement agencies for 193 days now since their December arrest.


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