JournalismPakistan.com August 30, 2015
CAIRO: Egypt's Foreign Ministry summoned the British ambassador in Cairo Sunday to protest comments he made after a judge sentenced three Al-Jazeera English journalists to three years prison each for reporting "false news."
The ministry said in a statement that John Casson's comments were "unacceptable interference" in the country's judiciary, and "incompatible with diplomatic norms and practices." In a post on Twitter, spokesman Ahmed Abu Zeid said Egypt "rejects any foreign criticism of judicial verdicts."
The court sentenced the Canadian Mohammed Fahmy, Australian Peter Greste and Egyptian Baher Mohammed on Saturday, reigniting international criticism over the long-running case and highlighting authorities' crackdown on free speech.
Speaking to television cameras in Arabic after the verdict, Casson (pictured, center) said he was "shocked and concerned by the sentences," in a case that is of "profound interest to Egyptians because it has become a symbol of the basis for stability in the new Egypt."
"I am concerned that today's ruling will undermine confidence in the basis of Egypt's stability, both in Egypt and abroad," he said.
Several other foreign diplomats at the trial also condemned the verdict, but Casson may have been the only one to speak in Arabic to domestic television stations. The United States, the European Union, the United Nations and human rights advocacy groups and press freedom organizations also sharply criticized it.
Casson's comments were posted on the British Embassy's Facebook page and met with a wave of negative reaction in Arabic and English. He also posted similar comments on Twitter, where he is one of the most widely-followed Western diplomats in Egypt, with nearly 28,000 followers.
The British Embassy said Casson met Hisham Seif al-Din, chief of staff to Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry, at the ministry's request on Sunday.
"Ambassador Casson explained the UK position on yesterday's court ruling set out in statements in London and Cairo yesterday," it said in a statement, adding that he would transmit the Egyptian side's concerns to government ministers in London. - AP
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