CANBERRA, Australia (AP) — Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott said Monday that he told Egyptian President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi that a jailed Australian journalist is innocent of charges that he supported the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood.
Australian Peter Greste is one of three Al-Jazeera journalists who face judgment in a Cairo court Monday on charges that they supported the Brotherhood. They were arrested in December as part of a sweeping crackdown on Islamist supporters of ousted President Mohammed Morsi after the military overthrew him last year.
Abbott, a former journalist, said he raised Greste's case in a conversation with the newly appointed Egyptian leader on the weekend.
"I did make the point that as an Australian journalist, Peter Greste, would not have been supporting the Muslim Brotherhood, he would have simply been reporting on the Muslim Brotherhood," Abbott told reporters.
"The point I made was that in the long run, a free and vigorous media are good for democracy, good for security, (and) good for stability," he said.
But Abbott said Greste's fate remained in the hands of the court.
"In the end, it is up to the Egyptian justice system to do its job," Abbott said.
"I did my best to put it to the president that as an Australian journalist, Peter Greste would not have been taking sides. He would have simply been reporting on the events that he saw before him. He certainly would have had no interest in promoting the Muslim Brotherhood," he said.
Greste and his Egyptian colleagues, Abdullah Elshamy and Baher Mohammed, have pleaded not guilty to terrorism-related charges that allege they provided a platform for the Brotherhood and Morsi.
The case has caused an outcry among journalists and rights groups, who say the prosecution of the journalists was politicized and undermines freedom of expression in Egypt.