Greste seeking to sort out Latvian citizenship formality

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The Foreign Affairs Ministry is considering ways to issue jailed Al Jazeera journalist Peter Greste the Latvian passport for which he applied but never received, reported LETA Saturday.

According to ministry spokesman Kārlis Eihenbaums, certain “technical difficulties” prevent the issue of Greste’s Latvian passport, not least being his current incarceration in a Cairo prison, where he has been sentenced to a seven-year term by Egypt’s judicial system for alleged support to the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood and falsifying news to taint Egypt's international reputation.

“There are a number of persons who have once applied for Latvian citizenship, but never actually signed for their receipt,” Eihenbaums explained.

“There are still such cases, but the problem with Greste is that he’s in jail,” he went on to say.

“The Greste family in fact wishes to renew their official ties to Latvia,” he added.

On Friday Foreign Affairs Minister Edgars Rinkēvičs tweeted from Wales of his meeting with Australian counterpart Julie Bishop, with whom he discussed the Greste case in addition to the situations in Ukraine and Afghanistan.

As previously reported, Peter Greste, whose father Juris is a Latvian citizen, also enjoys dual Australian-Latvian citizenship, therefore Latvian state officials have spoken out repeatedly on his behalf, while Latvia's consular authorities in Egypt are supporting the Greste family in their legal and diplomatic efforts to free their son and his colleagues.

Meanwhile, the Canberra Times reported Saturday on the recent return from Egypt of Peter’s brother Andrew, a grain- and cotton-farmer in the Namoi Valley of Australia’s New South Wales state.

"I've probably been into Egypt 13 or 14 weeks this year," Andrew Greste said.

Andrew said his brother was allowed two letters a month and no internet access, and has had only one face-to-face meeting with lawyers since being sentenced on charges viewed worldwide as outrageous and unsupported by evidence.

"We owe it to Pete," he said.

"I really don't know what's going to get him out of there – it's important we continue to explain the case to the diplomats and politicians. You can't leave a stone unturned."

After their latest 45-minute jail meeting, made together with brother Mike, Andrew Greste said their international correspondent sibling was doing "remarkably well", and had expressed interest in studying an international relations course while he fought to clear his name.  

Greste said the lack of any timeframe for the appeal was a frustration.

"We've got to continue to have hope and faith in the system – [Peter] feels, at the end of the day, justice will prevail and common sense will win," he said.

Parents Juris and Lois Greste return to Australia this week having spent the last two months in Egypt and Kenya, and will attend the National Press Club's private 50th birthday event this Wednesday.  

On Thursday September 4 Egypt’s State Council banned Qatari television news channel Al Jazeera from broadcasting on the government-controlled satellite feed. The Doha-based Al Jazeera network continued to deny any bias in its reporting of events in Egypt, or any role in aiding the Muslim Brotherhood.

On the same day as the Egyptian ban was announced, the network launched a series of roundtable discussions with media and human rights experts in Vienna to keep up the pressure on President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi to free the journalists and other political prisoners whose freedom of speech and assembly have been trampled.

Relations between Egypt and Qatar have been icy since July 2013, when the then-Egyptian army chief and current president, Abdel Fatah al-Sisi toppled Morsi following mass unrest against his rule.

Qatar, which had supported Morsi, denounced Egypt's crackdown on the former president's supporters, which left more than 1,400 people dead since his ouster.


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