Auckland protest to free Al Jazeera 3

NEIL REID
Last updated 15:39 28/06/2014
Peter Greste
AL YOUM AL SAABI NEWSPAPER/Reuters
BEHIND BARS: Australian Al Jazeera journalist Peter Greste has been imprisoned in Egypt since December 29.

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The global campaign to to free three Al Jazeera journalists imprisoned in Egypt hit central Auckland this afternoon.

Last week an Egyptian court handed out seven-year prison sentences to Australian journalist Peter Greste and his Egyptian colleague Mohamed Fahmy.

Fellow Egyptian journalist Baher Mohamed received a 10-year sentence.

The trio - who were arrested in December - had earlier been found guilty of charges of aiding the Muslim Brotherhood and reporting false news.

This afternoon members of the New Zealand Egyptian community, and some of their supporters, gathered outside the American Consulate, in central Auckland, to call for the trio's release.

Protest organiser Mohamed Hassan said the American Consulate had been chosen as the venue for the protest after the American government had recently pledged half a billion dollars in aid to Egypt despite reported human rights abuses in the north African nation.

''Human rights groups have been reporting quite drastic human rights abuses that have escalated in the last year,'' he said.

''During the week that these three journalists were sentenced to seven to 10 years in prison, we think that it is quite hypocritical for the US administration to be supporting the Egyptian administration.'

'Hassan - who moved from his homeland to New Zealand in 1997 - described the turnout of members of the local Egyptian community as ''quite modest''.

But he said all the members of his community were passionate about the plight of their loved ones back in Egypt.

''We follow the events over there in quite a lot of detail,'' Hassan said. ''The majority of my family is in Cairo so I am always keeping tabs on what is happening, try to inform myself and stay up to date.''

Following the sentencing of the 'Al Jazeera 3', New Zealand's Foreign Minister Murray McCully expressed ''deep concern'' over the case.

''Press freedom and transparent judicial processes are fundamental to any democracy,'' he said.

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