ALISON CARABINE: Julie Bishop, good morning.
JULIE BISHOP: Good
ALISON CARABINE: Minister where to from here for Peter Greste and your
efforts, the Government’s efforts to release him?
First, Peter Greste will consider whether or not to appeal this verdict. As I
said on hearing of the verdict, the Australian Government is shocked by the fact
he has been convicted but we’re utterly appalled by the severity of the
sentence. I spoke to his family and I know that they are considering their legal
options including an appeal and are taking advice from his legal team.
For the Australian Government, we will continue to make representations to
have our concerns registered at the highest level within the new Egyptian
Government. We are calling in the Deputy Ambassador because the Egyptian
Ambassador is currently in Cairo, so our Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade
here in Canberra will be calling in the deputy today and making our concerns
We are trying to speak to the Egyptian Ambassador in Cairo to also register
our concerns. I am seeking a phone call, another phone call with Foreign
Minister Shoukri, I spoke to him over the weekend and now I wish to speak to him
again about the verdict and what we can do. He’s currently travelling but we’re
seeking to make contact with him.
I spoke to the Prime Minister last night shortly after the verdict and the
Australian Government will shortly lodge a formal diplomatic level request with
the President to see if there is an intervention that he can take at this stage
in the proceedings. I am aware that under Egyptian law the President cannot
consider clemency or a pardon until such time as the legal proceedings have
concluded and that includes an appeal but we are hoping that there may be other
options available to the President.
ALISON CARABINE: So you would be hoping to circumvent that situation
where the President could only intervene and grant a pardon after all legal
avenues are exhausted?
We’re exploring every and any option and that includes making a representation
to the President now to see if there is any way he can intervene at this point
in the proceedings.
ALISON CARABINE: You have spoken about how shocked you are at the
sentence given to Peter Greste and his colleagues but considering the political
situation in Egypt were you really that surprised?
JULIE BISHOP: Yes
I am shocked given the evidence that we have seen to date. I had been told on
many occasions by the Egyptian Government officials that we had to respect the
independence of the judicial system, that they had a strong and robust judicial
system and that..
ALISON CARABINE: Do you still accept that to be the case about Egypt - a
strong and independent judicial system?
JULIE BISHOP: Well
it’s clearly independent of the representations that we have been making to the
government. On the evidence we have seen we just cannot understand how a court
could come to that verdict. We haven’t seen the reasons for the decision,
apparently they’ll be available shortly to Peter Greste’s lawyers and that may
give us some deeper insight into how or why this verdict was reached but on the
state of the evidence as we saw it we just can’t understand how a court could
come to that view.
ALISON CARABINE: And what would it do for Egypt’s international standing
if Peter Greste was released? How important could it be to Egypt’s image
JULIE BISHOP: Well
as we have seen, this verdict has drawn international condemnation from the
United Nations, from the United States, from the European Union from countries
around the world. Egypt claims to be on the path to democracy and we support
that and we have said publicly that we will support the Egyptian Government in
its transition to a democracy. Freedom of the press and freedom of speech are
fundamental to a democracy and if Peter Greste were released that would be a
demonstration that the Egyptian Government wanted to improve its image and show
that it was in fact on the path to being a stable democracy and we would welcome
that. But in the meantime we will do whatever we can to get Peter Greste home as
soon as possible.
ALISON CARABINE: And doing whatever you can to get him home – could that
include sanctions, the Greens for example are calling for sanctions, is that
something you might consider?
JULIE BISHOP: That
is not a responsible call to make at this time. We must maintain a connection
with the Egyptian Government, we must maintain leverage, we must maintain our
ability to continue to work with the Egyptian Government. Our Ambassador must
remain in Cairo at this stage so that he can continue to provide consular
support to Peter Greste and to his family, his two brothers are there, but also
to be able to continue to make representations in person to the Egyptian
ALISON CARABINE: And just finally Minister, have you been able to
reassure the Grestes that their son is receiving all the consular support
JULIE BISHOP: Yes
I spoke to Mr and Mrs Greste, Lois and Juris, last night and assured them that
we would continue to provide whatever assistance we could to Peter and they
acknowledged that, our Ambassador in Cairo Dr Ralph King has been in constant
touch with him. He has been able to make a number of improvements to the
conditions that Peter has been subjected to.
We’ve also provided consular assistance and support to his family and our
head of consular in the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade here in Canberra
has travelled to Queensland on a number of occasions to meet with the Greste
family and will continue to do that.
ALISON CARABINE: Minister thanks so much for your time.
JULIE BISHOP: It’s
been my pleasure.
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