Obama’s call at summit raises hopes for Greste

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The family of jailed Al Jazeera journalist Peter Greste said Thursday that they are “heartened” by US President Barack Obama’s statement Wednesday calling for his release.

Speaking at the end of a US-Africa summit Wednesday, US President Barack Obama said that the United States insists on the right of journalists to practice their trade as a critical element of civil society.

"In the specific issue of the Al-Jazeera journalists, we have been clear both publicly and privately, they should be released," Obama said at a news conference.

Obama’s words on behalf of the Australian-Latvian dual citizen and his two colleagues prompted Greste’s brother Andrew to state that this was “another step in the right direction.”

Earlier on Thursday, at a symposium on free speech in Sydney hosted by the Australian Human Rights Commission, Andrew Greste delivered a message from his brother calling for a vigorous defence of press freedom.

In words relayed through his brother, Peter Greste said he had always believed freedom of the press to be a "fundamental legal cornerstone of both his trade and a wider concept of a free and open society", but until his incarceration had taken it for granted.

After eight months in an Egyptian prison, Andrew Greste said, he now knows this attitude "to be dangerously naive".

"Press freedom and a free speech is a fragile thing with deeply personal consequences when it gets broken."

"Peter believes it isn't enough to simply talk about press freedom. It must be defended loudly and vigorously in the courts, in the street and in the media."

He said his brother’s “number one priority for him has been to ensure this ordeal does not break him mentally, and to rely on those of us outside to fight the fight for him.

“Peter continues to remain mentally and physically strong and has been conscious to look after himself,” he said. “An Egyptian prison is not a place where you want to get crook.

“My brother and I have been visiting him regularly on a weekly basis since the middle of February, family visits, along with consular visits being his only other source of contact with the outside world.”

He added: “He has very limited access to his legal representatives. Through this experience, Peter has come to the realisation that he is powerless to fight from within.”

Greste is a dual citizen of both Australia and Latvia, and diplomats from both countries have spoken out and coordinated efforts to secure the release of the Al Jazeera team.

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