Release Peter Greste: Tony Abbott appeals

JAMES MASSOLA
Last updated 17:42 28/03/2014
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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Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott has personally intervened on behalf of imprisoned journalist Peter Greste, appealing directly to interim Egyptian President Adly Mansour for the Australian's release.

In his direct intervention in the high profile case, Fairfax Media can reveal that Mr Abbott spoke with Mr Mansour about the reporter at about 8.45pm AEDT on Thursday night.

Greste is a reporter with the al-Jazeera television and was arrested in Cairo, along with two colleagues, on December 29 last year.

Abbott has thus far resisted pressure to publicly call for the release of Greste, though he has condemned the detention of journalists ''going about their ordinary business''.

The plea for help comes following growing calls, including from Labor deputy leader Tanya Plibersek and Greens Senator Sarah Hanson-Young, for Mr Abbott to intervene personally in the case.

During the call, Abbott asked the Egyptian president for assistance in securing the journalist's release and having the case resolved as quickly as possible.

The Australian prime minister pointed out that that Greste had only been doing his job as a journalist and had no intention of damaging Egypt's interests.

In reply, Mansour pointed out that he recently written to Greste's parents, Lois and Juris Greste, and pledged to the pair that the journalist would be subject to a fair and just legal process.

The president also promised Greste would receive the support and legal assistance he needed and said he hoped the case would be resolved as soon as possible.

Greste and his colleagues - bureau chief Canadian-Egyptian Mohamed Fadel and their Egyptian producer Baher Mohamed Fahmy - has been accused of conspiring with the Muslim Brotherhood to smear Egypt's reputation.

He is also alleged to have reported falsely that Egypt was in a state of ''civil war'' and of using unlicensed equipment to defame Egypt.

On Monday, an angry Greste shouted from the dock during the trial.

''We haven't seen a single shred of evidence presented in the court that could possibly justify the charges or our imprisonment - we have spent three months in prison on baseless charges," he said.

Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop has lobbied her Egyptian counterpart, Foreign Minister Hatem Seif El-Nasr, at a nuclear security summit in Egypt this week.

Greste's parents say the prime minister's appeal for his release will undoubtably help the case.

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‘‘We’re thrilled, delighted,’’ his father Juris said.

‘‘I have high hopes but modest expectations.

‘‘We don’t expect to be greeting Peter next week. It would be nice.’’

The Grestes held back from any criticism of how long it took Abbott to reach out.

‘‘We have come to realise that timing is important, and we respect other people’s over the appropriate timing in these things,’’ Juris said.

-Sydney Morning Herald and AAP

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