6PR Perth - Interview with Gary Adshead
GARYADSHEAD:Let's talk now with Julie Bishop the Foreign Minister, she embarks on the verydelicate job of protesting to the Egyptian Government about keeping the linesof communication open. Thanks very much for joining us this morning Minister.
GARYADSHEAD:Obviously you do have a history as a defamation lawyer as well. This seems anextraordinary case involving this journalist. Is it a hopeless situationthough, from the Government's point of view?
JULIEBISHOP: Weare certainly utterly dismayed and appalled that Peter Greste has beenconvicted and that such a severe custodial sentence - seven years - has beenimposed. Because on the basis of the evidence that we've seen and the evidencethat was presented against him, we simply do not understand the verdict. Icannot see how a court could have come to the conclusion it did.
We haven'tyet seen the reasons for judgement, they will be provided in due course, Iunderstand to Mr Greste's lawyers, so maybe we'll have a better insight intohow and why this decision was made, but we are certainly going to continue ourhigh level representations. The Australian Government will shortly lodge aformal diplomatic level request to the new Egyptian President to see if he canintervene early to secure the release of Mr Greste, but I know that the Grestefamily are considering their legal options, including an appeal against theverdict.
GARYADSHEAD:How delicate is it, from a diplomatic point of view? You obviously can't offendtheir judicial system, but then again you can see no reason for this.
JULIEBISHOP: Wellit is a very sensitive area. This is a new Government that has just beenelected in the democratic elections. The new Government claims that it is onthe path to democracy and we support that and want to be seen to be supportingEgypt, but it makes it very hard to accept Egypt's claim that it's on atransition to democracy when journalists - foreign journalists - are jailed fordoing their job and we are urging the new government of Egypt to reflect onwhat message is being sent to the world about the situation in Egypt.
There's beenan outpouring of sentiment and outrage from governments across the world, fromthe United Nations, European Union because freedom of the press is fundamentalto a democracy and we're deeply concerned that this verdict might be part of abroader attempt to muzzle the media freedom that upholds democracies around theworld.
GARYADSHEAD:You're obviously looking at a number of options, is one of them theInternational Court of Justice in The Hague?
JULIEBISHOP: Weare considering whatever options are available to us. That is something that Iknow Geoffrey Robertson, the eminent lawyer has raised. At this point we aremaking representations to the political authorities in Egypt. I've requestedour Ambassador in Cairo to seek a further contact for me with the EgyptianForeign Minister Shoukry - I spoke to him over the weekend - he's currentlytravelling out of Egypt but I want to again register Australia's strongconcerns at this outcome.
We are alsocalling in the Deputy Egyptian Ambassador whose residence is here in Canberra -the actual Ambassador is in Cairo - so we're calling in the Deputy here inCanberra to make it clear that we are appalled by this decision and that wewant to see an early intervention if possible.
Of course Ispoke to Peter Greste's parents last night - Juris and Lois Greste - andconveyed to them our shock and dismay at the penalty and to reassure the familythat the Australian Government will continue to provide high level and directrepresentations to the Egyptian Government.
We havecalled on other governments - and we've been doing this for many months now -called on other governments who might be closer to the Egyptian Government orhave more leverage with the Egyptian Government, to register their concernsabout the jailing of a journalist who was just doing his job.
GARYADSHEAD:Is it the sentence, or the fact that he was convicted in the first place thathas really shocked and horrified the family, the length of sentence?
JULIEBISHOP: Wellhad he been convicted and then expelled from the country, well we would havebeen pleased to get him home, it's the fact that it's a conviction coupled withsuch a severe custodial sentence that has really shocked us.
GARYADSHEAD:Okay, now do you get briefings, do you know what sort of conditions he's in?
GARYADSHEAD:Inside that prison? I mean what sort of….is his routine?
JULIEBISHOP: Wellwe have regular consular visits with him and that's why I'm keen for ourAmbassador to remain in Cairo so that he can continue to have these consularvisits and we have been able to improve his conditions somewhat by getting moreamenities and getting further comforts such as they are to him, but it's apretty grim situation. He's in jail in Cairo, he's in a cell with the other AlJazeera journalists.
do point outthat there's a limit to what we can do,but we can most certainly make consularrepresentations to improve the conditions that he's under and we - I thinkwe've had about 23 consular visits to him - and we've also attended each one ofthe court hearings and there's been 13 hearings including yesterday's verdict.
So ourAustralian consular officials are very dedicated, they're very professional,very competent and they are ensuring that they're providing him whateverassistance we can and likewise, providing practical to support to his familyand I certainly commend the work that our dedicated officials have been doingin this case.
GARYADSHEAD:What would you say to people that would argue, okay kick out their Ambassadorfrom Australia.
JULIEBISHOP: Iwant to maintain our Ambassador in Cairo. So if we throw out their Ambassadorthen they would retaliate and throw out ours, that's the way it works and Ibelieve that Dr King should remain in Cairo so that he can continue to provideconsular support to Peter Greste, so that he can continue to make personalface-to-face representations with the new government in Cairo.
At this stageI don't see any benefit to Peter Greste at all by removing our Ambassador andwe've got to work with this new government, it's been democratically elected,it maintains it's on the path to democracy. We have to do what we can with thenew government to see if we can secure Peter Greste's return home.
GARYADSHEAD:Thanks for joining us this morning.