News Talk 4BC - Interview with Patrick Condren

  • Transcript (E&OE)

JULIEBISHOP: Weare utterly dismayed and appalled that Peter Greste was convicted and such asevere custodial sentence has been imposed and on the basis of the evidencepresented we just simply do not understand the verdict.

TheAustralian Government will shortly lodge a formal diplomatic-level request tothe new Egyptian President to see if he can intervene early to secure therelease of Mr Greste.

I haverequested our Ambassador in Cairo to seek a further telephone call withEgyptian Foreign Minister Shoukri to register Australia's strong concerns atthis outcome. He is apparently travelling out of Egypt but I will seek to talkto him and I know that the Greste family are considering an appeal and takinglegal advice on the options open to them in terms of the legal process.

PATRICKCONDREN: Doyou know what legal options they have now?

JULIEBISHOP: Iunderstand that there is an appeal procedure available and that they have acertain amount of time within which to lodge an appeal. I don't know how longthat process will take. But the reasons for the decision haven't been providedyet. I understand the reasons are made available to the lawyers in due course.Once we've seen the reasons for the verdict we may be in a better position tosee why or how such a verdict was reached.

PATRICKCONDREN: Whatleverage do you have or the Australian Government has to make the point toEgypt about this case?

JULIEBISHOP: Wehave been working with other governments, who are closer to Egypt thanAustralia is, governments in the region, in the Middle East. We've been workingwith the United States and our friends and partners around the world asking themto make representations on Australia's behalf for Peter Greste in addition tothe high level representations that we've been making.

I've spokennow to two different Foreign Ministers. The Prime Minister has spoken directlyto Egyptian Presidents - the interim President and now the new President. Wewill continue to call on Egypt to prove that it is on a transition todemocracy. We urge the new Government of Egypt to reflect on what message isbeing sent to the world about the situation in Egypt when journalists are beingjailed for doing their job, that is reporting on the political activities ofthe day.

We've seenthe outpouring of sentiment from governments around the world – from the UnitedNations, from the European Union, non-government organisations about freedomand freedom of the press because that is fundamental to a democracy and I'mdeeply concerned that this verdict is part of a broader attempt to muzzle themedia freedom that upholds democracies around the world.

PATRICKCONDREN: Whathas successive Egyptian Governments said to the Abbott Government?

JULIEBISHOP: Fromthe outset they have said that this is an independent legal process. They drawthe analogy to Australia to say you wouldn't like it if there were an Egyptianin detention in Australia, charged under Australian laws, and Egyptianpoliticians were trying to interfere in that. I mean they make that point to meand have made that point on a number of occasions that this is an independentjudicial process.

PATRICKCONDREN: Sohow do you as Foreign Minister respond to that then?

JULIEBISHOP: Itold them that I respect Egypt's attempts to transition to democracy and Irespect the independence of the judiciary is the fundamental pillar ofdemocracy.

However onthe basis of the evidence presented we simply cannot understand how thisverdict could have been reached and we'll continue to press our case that PeterGreste had arrived in Egypt just a short time before he was detained, that hewas working as a journalist, he was reporting on the Muslim Brotherhood – whichof course had been the democratically elected Government. He was reporting onthe Muslim Brotherhood, he was not supporting it and that he was doing his joband that he should not have been arrested nor detained and certainly notconvicted and sentenced.

PATRICKCONDREN: Doyou have any information in terms of the conditions that Mr Greste and hiscolleagues are being kept in?

JULIEBISHOP: Yeswe have been visiting Peter Greste on a regular basis – that is our diplomatsin Cairo – our ambassador Dr Ralph King has visited Peter on a number ofoccasions, many occasions and through his representations I understand thatsome improvements have been made to Peter's conditions but they are certainlycramped, they are not ideal, he's in detention, he's in a jail in Cairo sowe've been doing what we can to improve those conditions for him and providehim with assistance and we will continue to do so.

I made thatpoint to Lois and Juris Greste, his parents, last evening. I rang them andspoke to them shortly after the verdict and said that we would continue toprovide whatever consular support we could to Mr Greste and all practicalsupport to his family and I do have to commend the work that our dedicated officialshave been doing ever since Peter was detained in December last year.

PATRICKCONDREN: MsBishop, thank you for your time this morning.

JULIEBISHOP: Mypleasure.

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