Hopes dim Egypt to release Australian Al Jazeera journalist soon

Reuters News
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Posted: Dec 28, 2014 10:13 PM

SYDNEY (Reuters) - Hopes are fading for the release of Australian journalist Peter Greste, who has been in jail in Egypt for a year, after Cairo sent mixed signals about his case, Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop said on Monday.

The Al Jazeera reporter is serving seven years for crimes that include spreading lies to help a "terrorist organization" - an allusion to the Muslim Brotherhood group which is banned in Egypt.

Bishop last week raised the possibility Greste could be freed before an appeal hearing set for Jan. 1. [ID:nL3N0U803K]

"We had indications that Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi would exercise his authority regarding a pardon or a clemency plea in advance of the appeal," Bishop told the Australian Broadcasting Corp.

"Yet, in the meantime, the Egyptian foreign minister has said to me that we have to await the appeal, so there are different messages coming from the Egyptian government," Bishop said.

Sisi suggested in November he was considering pardoning Greste and two other journalists working for Qatar-based Al Jazeera, who mark their 365th day in prison on Monday.

Greste's brothers, Mike and Andrew Greste, told reporters in Australia they did not believe their brother would be released before the appeal.

"The Egyptian president has said a few days after he was convicted that he wouldn't be pardoning Peter until the legal processes have been finalised," Mike Greste said.

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 tension between Egypt and Qatar.

(This version of the story was corrected to show Greste was sentenced to seven years in prison, not seven to ten, in paragraph 2.)

(Reporting by James Regan; Editing by Robert Birsel)