Australian foreign minister hopeful Egypt will release Al Jazeera journalist

Reuters News
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Posted: Dec 23, 2014 7:49 PM

SYDNEY (Reuters) - Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop said on Wednesday the case of jailed Australian journalist Peter Greste is "under consideration" by high levels of the Egyptian government and she is hopeful of his release by the end of the year.

"I urged (the Egyptian foreign minister) to consider releasing Peter Greste for Christmas, we wanted him out and home as soon as possible," Bishop told the Seven Network.

"We've got our fingers crossed, we don't know whether we have secured this yet."

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi suggested in November he was considering pardoning Greste and two other journalists of Qatar-based Al Jazeera television who have been in jail for a year.

The three journalists were sentenced in June to between seven and 10 years jail on charges including spreading lies to help a "terrorist organization", an allusion to the banned Muslim Brotherhood.

Greste and possibly Canadian-Egyptian Mohamed Fahmy could be pardoned. However, the third journalist, Baher Mohamed, is Egyptian, so would not be expected to benefit.

Human rights groups and Western governments have condemned the trial of the journalists and the United Nations questioned Egypt's judicial independence. The affair has contributed to tensions between Egypt and Qatar.

An appeal for Greste is due to be heard on Jan. 1.

"It would be very exciting if there were some steps taken before then," Bishop said.

(Reporting By Jane Wardell; Editing by Michael Perry)