ABC, Radio National - interview with Alison Carabine

  • Transcript, E&OE

ALISON CARABINE: Julie Bishop, good morning.

JULIE BISHOP: Goodmorning.

ALISON CARABINE: Minister where to from here for Peter Greste and yourefforts, the Government's efforts to release him?

JULIE BISHOP:First, Peter Greste will consider whether or not to appeal this verdict. As Isaid on hearing of the verdict, the Australian Government is shocked by the facthe has been convicted but we're utterly appalled by the severity of thesentence. I spoke to his family and I know that they are considering their legaloptions including an appeal and are taking advice from his legal team.

For the Australian Government, we will continue to make representations tohave our concerns registered at the highest level within the new EgyptianGovernment. We are calling in the Deputy Ambassador because the EgyptianAmbassador is currently in Cairo, so our Department of Foreign Affairs and Tradehere in Canberra will be calling in the deputy today and making our concernsknown.

We are trying to speak to the Egyptian Ambassador in Cairo to also registerour concerns. I am seeking a phone call, another phone call with ForeignMinister Shoukri, I spoke to him over the weekend and now I wish to speak to himagain about the verdict and what we can do. He's currently travelling but we'reseeking to make contact with him.

I spoke to the Prime Minister last night shortly after the verdict and theAustralian Government will shortly lodge a formal diplomatic level request withthe President to see if there is an intervention that he can take at this stagein the proceedings. I am aware that under Egyptian law the President cannotconsider clemency or a pardon until such time as the legal proceedings haveconcluded and that includes an appeal but we are hoping that there may be otheroptions available to the President.

ALISON CARABINE: So you would be hoping to circumvent that situationwhere the President could only intervene and grant a pardon after all legalavenues are exhausted?

JULIE BISHOP:We're exploring every and any option and that includes making a representationto the President now to see if there is any way he can intervene at this pointin the proceedings.

ALISON CARABINE: You have spoken about how shocked you are at thesentence given to Peter Greste and his colleagues but considering the politicalsituation in Egypt were you really that surprised?

JULIE BISHOP: YesI am shocked given the evidence that we have seen to date. I had been told onmany occasions by the Egyptian Government officials that we had to respect theindependence of the judicial system, that they had a strong and robust judicialsystem and that..

ALISON CARABINE: Do you still accept that to be the case about Egypt - astrong and independent judicial system?

JULIE BISHOP: Wellit's clearly independent of the representations that we have been making to thegovernment. On the evidence we have seen we just cannot understand how a courtcould come to that verdict. We haven't seen the reasons for the decision,apparently they'll be available shortly to Peter Greste's lawyers and that maygive us some deeper insight into how or why this verdict was reached but on thestate of the evidence as we saw it we just can't understand how a court couldcome to that view.

ALISON CARABINE: And what would it do for Egypt's international standingif Peter Greste was released? How important could it be to Egypt's imageoverseas?

JULIE BISHOP: Wellas we have seen, this verdict has drawn international condemnation from theUnited Nations, from the United States, from the European Union from countriesaround the world. Egypt claims to be on the path to democracy and we supportthat and we have said publicly that we will support the Egyptian Government inits transition to a democracy. Freedom of the press and freedom of speech arefundamental to a democracy and if Peter Greste were released that would be ademonstration that the Egyptian Government wanted to improve its image and showthat it was in fact on the path to being a stable democracy and we would welcomethat. But in the meantime we will do whatever we can to get Peter Greste home assoon as possible.

ALISON CARABINE: And doing whatever you can to get him home – could thatinclude sanctions, the Greens for example are calling for sanctions, is thatsomething you might consider?

JULIE BISHOP: Thatis not a responsible call to make at this time. We must maintain a connectionwith the Egyptian Government, we must maintain leverage, we must maintain ourability to continue to work with the Egyptian Government. Our Ambassador mustremain in Cairo at this stage so that he can continue to provide consularsupport to Peter Greste and to his family, his two brothers are there, but alsoto be able to continue to make representations in person to the Egyptianauthorities.

ALISON CARABINE: And just finally Minister, have you been able toreassure the Grestes that their son is receiving all the consular supportpossible?

JULIE BISHOP: YesI spoke to Mr and Mrs Greste, Lois and Juris, last night and assured them thatwe would continue to provide whatever assistance we could to Peter and theyacknowledged that, our Ambassador in Cairo Dr Ralph King has been in constanttouch with him. He has been able to make a number of improvements to theconditions that Peter has been subjected to.

We've also provided consular assistance and support to his family and ourhead of consular in the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade here in Canberrahas travelled to Queensland on a number of occasions to meet with the Grestefamily and will continue to do that.

ALISON CARABINE: Minister thanks so much for your time.

JULIE BISHOP: It'sbeen my pleasure.

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