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06 March 2014

Peter Greste calls on Tony Abbott to speak out for imprisoned journalists

Al-Jazeera producer Baher Mohamed, left, and correspondent Peter Greste, centre, in the defendants' cage in a Cairo courtroom on Wednesday

Everybody from the White House down has given their support to us: We haven't heard from the prime minister,' says reporter

The Australian journalist Peter Greste has spoken out on the second day of his trial in Egypt, calling on the prime minister, Tony Abbott, to declare his public support for the imprisoned journalists.

Greste, who grew up in Brisbane, has been imprisoned in Cairo since 29 December with his al-Jazeera colleagues Mohamed Fadel Fahmy and Baher Mohamed. The trio are among 20 journalists and activists accused of helping Egypt's banned Muslim Brotherhood and conspiring to tarnish the country's reputation.

They appeared shackled and in giant cages. Some defendants claimed they had been tortured and denied medical treatment.

We need him [the prime minister] to speak out, Greste told the ABC. Everybody from the White House down has given their support to us. We haven't heard from the prime minister.

Greste is also a Latvian citizen, and on Thursday the Latvian foreign ministry issued a statement in support of the journalist. We expect his immediate release as he has committed no crime, a spokesman, Karlis Eihenbaums, told Agence France-Presse.

During the trial, Fahmy rejected the allegations made against him and said he had been denied medical care for his shoulder, which was seriously injured several months ago.

I covered the Syrian and Egyptian revolutions, he said. No one ever said that I was dishonourable. It's impossible that I would ever betray my country.

Another co-defendant in the case, Sohaib Said, who is not an al-Jazeera journalist, said he had been tortured in custody. I have no idea why I am on trial, and it's completely unfair, he said.

Calls have mounted for the prime minister to intervene in Greste's case. The federal secretary of Australia's Media Entertainment and Arts Alliance, Chris Warren, and the Greens leader, Christine Milne, have called on the prime minister to appeal personally for the release of Greste and the other journalists detained in Egypt.

An international day of action was held last Thursday. People rallied in more than 30 countries to show support for the imprisoned journalists.

Tony Abbott doesn't give a shit about his own people

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