British envoy summoned over Al Jazeera verdict remarks

Cairo, Aug 31 (IANS) The Egyptian foreign ministry has summoned the British ambassador over comments he made regarding prison sentences handed down to three Al Jazeera journalists, the media reported.

In a statement issued on its official Facebook page on Sunday, the foreign ministry expressed its complete rejection of British ambassador John Casson’s statements regarding the Al Jazeera trial verdicts, describing his criticism as “unacceptable interference in Egyptian judiciary verdicts”, Al Ahram news reported.

“Those statements contradict the diplomatic norms for a foreign ambassador accredited in a foreign country, whose main mission is to develop closer ties with that country,” the statement said.

On Saturday, a Cairo court sentenced six defendants, including three Al-Jazeera journalists — Egyptian Baher Mohamed, Canadian Mohamed Fahmy, and Australian Peter Greste — to three years in prison.

The British ambassador, who attended the trial, told reporters after the verdict that it was shocking and expressed concern over the ruling.

Two British nationals were among the eight defendants who stood trial in the case.

“I am concerned that today’s ruling will undermine confidence in the basis of Egypt’s stability, both in Egypt and abroad,” John Casson told reporters at the court following the announcement of the verdict.

Casson expressed his country’s support for stability in Egypt, but added that “the question today is whether this will be a fragile and temporary stability on the basis of suspending freedoms of media and expression and depriving individuals of their rights in the Egyptian constitution”.

From his side, spokesperson of the Egyptian ministry of foreign affairs Ahmed Abu Zeid slammed Casson’s statements.

“What is important is the Egyptian people’s confidence in the integrity of Egypt’s judiciary and its independence,” Abu Zeid said, adding that Egypt was not waiting for lessons from anybody.

The defendants were found guilty of operating without a press licence and broadcasting material harmful to Egypt in the turbulent months that followed the ouster of Islamist president Mohamed Morsi in June 2013.

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