Egypt’s Foreign Ministry on Sunday summoned the British ambassador over his criticism of prison sentences handed to three journalists from Qatari broadcaster Al-Jazeera.
“What counts is the Egyptian people’s confidence in the transparency and independence of the Egyptian judiciary,” the ministry said, calling ambassador John Casson’s comments “unacceptable interference.” It said: “Egypt needs lessons from no one.”
A Cairo court on Saturday sentenced Australian journalist Peter Greste, Canadian Mohamed Fahmy and Egyptian producer Baher Mohamed to three years in prison for having broadcast “false” news and for having worked without the necessary permits.
After having attended Saturday’s court hearing, the ambassador criticized the proceedings in a statement on his Facebook page. “This case... has become a symbol of the basis for stability in the new Egypt,” he said.
“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?
“I am concerned that today’s ruling will undermine confidence in the basis of Egypt’s stability, both in Egypt and abroad,” he said.
Fahmy and Mohamed were immediately detained after the verdict on Saturday, but Greste was tried in absentia after being deported earlier this year.
The verdict sparked condemnation worldwide. Washington said it was “deeply disappointed and concerned” by the trial’s outcome.