Australian's parents 'at breaking point'

Last updated 14:40 30/01/2014
Peter Greste
IN CUSTODY: Al-Jazeera journalist Peter Greste

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The parents of an Australian journalist detained in Egypt say they've reached breaking point as their son is referred to trial for "airing false news".

Peter Greste is one of 20 Aljazeera journalists that Egyptian prosecutors want tried on various charges.

The Qatar-based news channel, which has incensed Egypt's new military-installed authorities by its coverage of the crackdown on the Muslim Brotherhood, says the charges are baseless and "silly".

Greste's parents, Lois and Juris Greste, agree and say they fear their son could be held in detention for up to two years without being formally charged.

He's now in solitary confinement in Cairo's maximum security Tora prison and only allowed four hours of exercise time a day.

"From our point of view, with such scant and difficult communications, it is just certainly taking us to literally breaking point, which we in fact reached a couple of days ago," Mr Greste told reporters in Brisbane without elaborating.

Mrs Greste said while they have had spoken briefly with Peter, they had not heard from him since Egyptian prosecutors announced he would be tried.

She said one of her son's colleagues was able to briefly wave to him and give a thumbs up at the appeal.

"Peter had a great big smile on his face, so basically he seems to be holding up well, but there was no communication," she said.

Mrs Greste said the family was receiving regular updates from Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, while Foreign Minister Julie Bishop had spoken at length with Egyptian Prime Minister Hazem El-Beblawi about the issue.

Four foreigners - Greste, two Britons, and a Dutch woman - have been accused of "collaborating with the Egyptians by providing them with money, equipment, information ... and airing false news aimed at informing the outside world that the country was witnessing a civil war".

Only eight of the 20 - including Greste - are in detention, while others are being sought, the prosecution said.

Aljazeera has said only five of its journalists were being held.

The prosecution did not name the detained, but three Aljazeera journalists were arrested at a Cairo hotel on December 29.

They are Mr Greste, 48, an acclaimed Australian journalist who formerly worked for the BBC, Canadian-Egyptian Mohamed Adel Fahmy and Egyptian producer Baher Mohamed.

The prosecution previously accused the Aljazeera crew of links to the Muslim Brotherhood, which has been blacklisted by the authorities as a terrorist group.

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That is part of what has been a deadly government crackdown on the Brotherhood since the July ouster of president Mohamed Morsi, who hails from the movement.

The blacklisting of the Brotherhood makes promotion of the group either verbally or in writing punishable by long prison sentences.


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