JAMES ROYCE WRITES – Australian Al Jazeera journalist Peter Greste may have been freed from Egyptian prison last February, but his name was not present on a list of 100 pardons released by Egyptian President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi earlier this week.
The decision made by President Sisi came a day before he was to head to New York for the 70th session of the United Nations General Assembly.
Greste, along with fellow Al Jazeera journalists Baher Mohamed and Mohamed Fahmy, was arrested in December 2013 by Egyptian state authorities. Greste and Fahmy were sentenced to 7 years jail time, while Mohamed was sentenced to 10 years, on charges of operating without a press license and broadcasting material harmful to Egypt.
The sentencing was met with large amounts of international backlash, as many analysts blamed an ongoing political battle between Egypt and Qatar – where Al Jazeera is based – being the reason behind the arrests, not the integrity of the journalists in question.
After spending 400 days in Egyptian prison, Greste was deported back to Australia last Feburary, where he would face retrial in absentia (a criminal proceeding in a court of law in which the person who is subject to it is not physically present at those proceedings).
Analysts have pointed to the fact that he was not in Egypt during the time of the President Sisi’s decision as the reason for being left out of the extensive list of pardons: “[A pardon] would mean all the difference in the world. I still have, as far as I know, a conviction hanging over my head and a criminal record as a convicted terrorist,” Greste told Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) Radio.
Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop met with President Sisi last week at the United Nations General Assembly session in New York, where she reported that Egyptian authorities are favorably leaning towards considering a pardon for Greste. “[the Egyptian authorities] made it clear that they would either change the law, or the president would consider being able to use his power as president to achieve the same result,” Bishop told her staff after the meeting.
Greste currently remains at his home in Sydney, New South Wales, where he makes regular television and radio appearances.