KARL STEFANOVIC: Australian journalist Peter Greste is
facing a bleak future after he and two of his Al-Jazeera colleagues were
sentenced to seven years behind bars in an Egyptian prison, joining us is the
Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop. Good morning.
JULIE BISHOP: Good morning Karl
KARL STEFANOVIC: No evidence against the accused and
seven years in the clink, how is that right?
JULIE BISHOP: We are shocked and appalled by this
verdict on the basis of the evidence we heard. We cannot understand how a court
could have reached this decision. I know the Greste family are considering an
appeal. In the meantime the Australian Government will do all we can to raise
our concerns at the highest level within the Egyptian Government.
KARL STEFANOVIC: What are you going to do about it?
Egypt rejects as you know any interference on internal matters especially
judicial. How are we going to navigate through those problems?
JULIE BISHOP: Well first I am trying to make contact
with the new Foreign Minister Shukri, I spoke to him over the weekend, and I am
trying to make contact with him again. He's travelling out of Egypt at present
but I have asked our ambassador in Cairo, Dr King, to make contact with the
Foreign Minister so I can again register our deep concerns.
Secondly we are calling in the Deputy Ambassador of Egypt, resident in
Canberra, calling him in to the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade to
register our concerns. The Egyptian ambassador is actually in Cairo so our
diplomats in Cairo are making contact with him.
I have discussed this matter with the Prime Minister - in fact minutes after
the verdict was handed down - the Australian Government will shortly be lodging
a formal diplomatic level request with the President of Egypt to see if he can
intervene at this point in the proceedings.
KARL STEFANOVIC: Is it enough?
JULIE BISHOP: Well, we are dealing with a newly
elected Egyptian Government and we must maintain contact with them to ensure
that Peter Greste can continue to receive consular assistance while he is in
prison and so we are doing all we can by raising it at the highest levels within
the new government. You will appreciate this is a newly sworn-in government. In
the past I had been dealing on a constant basis with an interim government.
Of course the complexities of this case are that last year the Muslim
Brotherhood was indeed the Government and then there was amilitary coup, Peter
Greste got caught up in those circumstances where there was a change from the
Muslim Brotherhood government to the military interim government and of course
he was charged with supporting the Muslim Brotherhood. On the evidence we have
seen he was certainly not, he was doing his job as a journalist, he was
reporting on the political activities in Egypt at that time.
KARL STEFANOVIC: How much aid do we give to Egypt?
JULIE BISHOP: We don't provide that kind of support to
Egypt. We are looking for whatever leverage we can - I can assure you we have
been raising it with every government that we believe has a relationship with
Egypt, governments that have deeper friendship than Australia does with Egypt
and we have been doing that since Peter Greste was first detained.
I made my first contact with the Egyptian authorities in early January and we
have continued to make requests and make representations to the highest levels,
but we have also asked our friends and partners in the region and beyond, to
make representations to Egypt and I know that they have been doing it.
KARL STEFANOVIC: The US Secretary of State as you know John Kerry
announced $575 million in military aid to Egypt and voiced strong support for
the new government. He's had something to say about this as well. Egypt can't
have it both ways, they can't accept that aid from say, for example the US then
goabout their business in regards to the judicial system like this. At some
point the screws have got to be tightened on them.
JULIE BISHOP: I agree that the relationship between
the United States and Egypt is far closer than Australia's with Egypt, but there
is international condemnation and outrage from the United Nations to the
European Union to the United States. Across the globe, people are condemning
what they see as a very crude attempt to blunt freedom of speech and freedom of
the press in Egypt. We want to support Egypt to become a democracy in the Middle
East, we have been supporting Egypt's transition to democracy but a verdict like
this does nothing to support Egypt's claim that it is transitioning to a
KARL STEFANOVIC: Finally, Iraq, it seems to be
worsening there as well. Can you take us through any steps moving forward from
here that you are planning?
JULIE BISHOP: Well, as you know, the international
community including Australia have been calling on the Maliki Government to form
a national unity government to bring in the Sunni leaders who feel excluded and
marginalised from this Shi'ite-led government. We believe there has to be a
political solution to bring the warring factions in Iraq together to form some
kind of united front against this brutal terrorist organisation ISIS.
So we are hoping that there can be a political solution. That is why the
Secretary of State John Kerrie was in Iraq. The military solution would be
devastating, it would be catastrophic, but we are doing what we can to ensure
our people in Baghdad are safe and we are calling on any Australians who are in
Iraq to leave the country immediately. Unless they have very good reason to stay
there they should leave as soon as possible.
KARL STEFANOVIC: A busy and uncertain time. We
appreciate your time.
JULIE BISHOP: Thanks Karl.
- Minister's office: (02) 6277 7500
- DFAT Media Liaison: (02) 6261 1555