Jailed journalists languish as presidents rub elbows

Take note – story published 9 years and 8 months ago

Jailed Australian-Latvian journalist Peter Greste’s parents Juris and Lois got what they had hoped for from Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s participation at the gathering of heads-of-state at the United Nations General Assembly Thursday as confirmation of his meeting with his counterpart Abdel el-Sisi came through the wires.

According to the report of Phillip Coorey, Chief political correspondent for Financial Review, “overnight, he met the leader of Egypt, with whom he also raised the plight of jailed journalist Peter Greste, and with the leaders of Lebanon and Iraq.”

Watch how President Sisi responds to the US Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) in an interview.


Lois and Juris are not long since their return visit from the country where their son – the Al Jazeera Egypt field team’s correspondent and his two colleagues are now in their ninth month of serving multiple-year prison terms for what most of the world would consider the standard daily practice of journalism.

As Abbott was globe-trotting his way to New York, the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) news reports quoted Lois saying "I hope that he [Mr Abbott] asks that this can be speeded up and that the process through the judicial system is not delayed," she said.

Juris also said he would welcome any intervention.

"I would like to think there is an opportunity to meet," he said.

"Perhaps remind president el-Sissi that while this matter goes on, clearly Australian and Egyptian relationships can never be same as they were before December last year.

Greste and his Al Jazeera English colleagues Baher Mohamed and Mohamed Fahmy were arrested in December.

The family of Egyptian-Canadian journalist Fahmy have also asked the Canadian prime minister to discuss his case with Mr el-Sissi.

The Grestes have spent the last 10 weeks in Cairo where they were allowed to visit Peter for 45 minutes every fortnight.

On their last visit, three tanks were stationed outside the jail and snipers surveilled the entrance from the roof.

On blistering hot days, it would take hours to pass security to finally meet their son.

"To me it is completely stomach churning, the whole idea of going and visiting Peter, but of course we welcome it," Juris said.

"But it is a day where my stomach is completely knotted. It is from our point of view a very intense place."

Peter, who shares a cell with six others, has found extraordinary ways to keep sane. He tends to a herb garden and is about to start a postgraduate course of international relations. However, he will be using a pencil rather than a computer to write his assignments, they related.

He has also taken up baking and on his parent's last visit he presented them with a loaf of sourdough bread he had made after two failed attempts to create a culture.

As a birthday present to his parent, he also scribed and framed an inspiring quote.

"To minimise the risk of psychological, emotional and intellectual scarring, one has to be highly resilient, creative in one's use of time and opportunities and simply tough," Juris said.

"We are greatly relieved to share with you that Peter has shown all of those qualities."

Watch their riveting account of the visit to the Australian press from Queensland's Sunshine Coast Daily.



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