Kiwi tells of detention in Egypt

Last updated 18:41 24/06/2014
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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After three Al Jazeera journalists were sentenced to jail by an Egyptian court, a Kiwi has spoken of being detained in Egypt for covering protests against a military coup.

» Just doing their job

Wayne Hay was detained in August last year as he covered demonstrations in outer Cairo against the recent overthrow of democratically elected president Mohamed Morsi.

"It's a very scary thing," he told reporters in Brisbane on Tuesday.

"I certainly never experienced anything like that before.

"Having your freedom taken away like, and absolutely losing all control, and being cut off from the outside world, really is an extremely difficult thing."

The former Al-Jazeera TV journalist says he was locked up for six days in a police cell at Helwan, on the outskirts of the Egyptian capital, as authorities cracked down on foreign media.

"It was not pleasant. Our cell that we were kept in was quite large but absolutely filthy," he told AAP.

"Rubbish was piled up in the corner of the cell, sleeping on concrete slabs. It's pretty grim."

But Hay was not given a proper reason for his detention ahead of his deportation for not having the right media credentials.

It was so murky that we really didn't know," he said.

"They were also concerned about the equipment that we had."

Mr Hay was in Brisbane on Tuesday as the parents of Australian journalist Peter Greste, Lois and Juris Greste, spoke to reporters about their son, a fellow Al-Jazeera reporter, being jailed for seven years on charges of spreading false news and supporting the Muslim Brotherhood.

Another journalist was also jailed for seven years, while the third was jailed for 10 years.

The trio all denied the charge of working with the now banned Muslim Brotherhood, but were given jail sentences in a trial dismissed by rights groups as a politically motivated sham.

New Zealand Foreign Minister Murray McCully has expressed "deep concern" at the prison sentences.

He joined other western leaders in calling Egyptian authorities to review the case "as a matter of urgency".

McCully said press freedom and transparent judicial processes were fundamental to any democracy.

"I have seen nothing to suggest that these three journalists were doing anything other than their job, and the seven-year prison sentences imposed appear to be aimed at silencing critics rather than serving justice," he said today.

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"The Egyptian authorities need to understand that the international community is watching closely and will not accept the current verdicts."

- AAP, Stuff.co.nz

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