Egypt summoned the UK Ambassador, John Casson, on Sunday to meet with officials in Cairo after his “unacceptable interfering” comments on the Egyptian court’s decision over the convictions of three Al Jazeera journalists.
Mohamed Fahmy, Baher Mohamed, and Peter Greste were sentenced to three years in prison with charges of operating without a press license and spreading harmful news to Egypt on Saturday. After the convictions, UK Ambassador Casson said he was shocked after the decision and concerned that it would “undermine confidence in the basis of Egypt’s stability, both in Egypt and abroad.”
"Britain actively supports stability in Egypt," Casson wrote on Facebook. "But the question today is whether this will be a fragile and temporary stability on the basis of suspending freedoms of media and expression and depriving individuals of their rights in the Egyptian constitution."
Egyptian authorities expressed “strong objection” to Casson’s remarks. Egypt’s Foreign Ministry said that his comments were “unacceptable interference” in the country’s judiciary.
Casson has attended a metting with Foreign Ministry officials. The UK embassy said Casson met with the chief of staff to the Foreign Minister, Sameh Shoukry, with the request of the ministry.
“Ambassador Casson explained the UK position on yesterday’s court ruling set out in statements in London and Cairo yesterday, especially in light of the fact that two British nationals are involved in the case,” a statement on official Facebook page of Foreign Ministry said after the meeting.
The ministry said any statements from abroad regarding the case of the Al Jazeera journalists would face with “complete rejection.”
The case has revived an outrcry and has made people question Egypt’s commitment to democracy as of an uprising took down Hosni Mubarak. Strict measures have been taken to stifle public dissent. Rights advocates said three Al Jazeraa journalists’ arrest was a part of the measures since the army overthrew president Mohamed Morsi in 2013.
After Saturday’s decisions of Egyptian court, Fahmy and Mohamed were led away to begin paying their penalties. Greste was on trial in absentia because he was deported to his country, Australia, in February.
On Saturday, Egyptian court sentenced six defendants to three years in jail, including three Al Jazeera journalists and three students. Two British nationals were among the eight defendants. In the original case, they were sentenced in absentia to 10 years for spreading false news when they worked for Al Jazeera in Egypt.