John Kerry calls jailing of journalists 'chilling and draconian' -

John Kerry calls jailing of journalists ‘chilling and draconian’

Secretary of State calls ruling a deeply disturbing set-back to Egypt’s transition


U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry expressed outrage at the conviction and sentencing in Egypt of three Al Jazeera journalists — including Canadian-Egyptian citizen Mohamed Fahmy. Kerry said the trial “lacked many fundamental norms of due process.” He called on the Egyptian government to review the sentences and consider a pardon.

The court ruling came the day after Kerry was in Cairo meeting with Egyptian  President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi. Their discussions included human rights and the specific case of the Al Jazeera journalists, who were accused of working with the Muslim Brotherhood to make false reports and undermine Egyptian security.

After his meeting with al-Sisi, Kerry had said:

“We talked specifically about Al Jazeera journalists. We talked specifically about the court system and death sentences. And I think it’s more appropriate for President al-Sisi to speak to those at such time as he deems fit and as is appropriate within the Egyptian process and system over the course of the next days and weeks. But I will say to you that he gave me a very strong sense of his commitment to make certain that the process he has put in place, a re-evaluation of human rights legislation, a re-evaluation of the judicial process, and other choices that are available are very much on his mind, and that he’s only been in office for 10 days, but he indicated to me that we should work closely, as we will, and stay tuned to what he is going to try to implement over the course of these next days, weeks, and months. And as you know, that we think it’s important for the president to be given the opportunity – only 10 days in office – to begin to get his cabinet moving and begin to focus on these issues. We have time to make that measurement and we will in the days ahead.”

Below is Secretary Kerry’s full statement on today’s sentences:

Today’s conviction and chilling, draconian sentences by the Cairo Criminal Court of three Al Jazeera journalists and 15 others, in a trial that lacked many fundamental norms of due process, is a deeply disturbing set-back to Egypt’s transition. Injustices like these simply cannot stand if Egypt is to move forward in the way that President al-Sisi and Foreign Minister Shoukry told me just yesterday that they aspire to see their country advance.

As I shared with President al-Sisi during my visit to Cairo, the long term success of Egypt and its people depends on the protection of universal human rights, and a real commitment to embracing the aspirations of the Egyptians for a responsive government. Egyptian society is stronger and sustainable when all of its citizens have a say and a stake in its success. Today’s verdicts fly in the face of the essential role of civil society, a free press, and the real rule of law. I spoke with Foreign Minister Shoukry again today to make very clear our deep concerns about these convictions and sentences.

Yesterday, President al-Sisi and I frankly discussed these issues and his objectives at the start of his term as President. I call on him to make clear, publicly, his government’s intention to observe Egypt’s commitment to the essential role of civil society, a free press, and the rule of law. The Egyptian government should review all of the political sentences and verdicts pronounced during the last few years and consider all available remedies, including pardons.



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