British PM shouldn’t meet Sisi: Greste

Peter Greste says it would be “completely inappropriate” for the British government to host talks with Egyptian president Abdel Fattah al-Sisi later this year after a court sentenced three Al Jazeera English journalists to three years in prison.

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It was announced in June that the UK would host bilateral discussions with Sisi, the former head of Egypt’s armed forces who led the coup overthrowing Islamist president Mohammed Morsi.

But Australian journalist Greste, who was deported from Egypt in February, told Channel 4 News on Saturday that the planned visit “doesn’t seem compatible with putting him under pressure”.

Greste added: “It seems completely inappropriate in the light of this conviction.”

“The whole world has been watching this case very very closely to see Egypt’s commitment to freedom of the press, rule of law, due process.

“What we are seeing today in these convictions is a gross injustice and a violation of all of those very fundamental principles.

“For President Sisi to be sitting alongside the prime minister of Britain is going to send out a very negative message.

“What we need to do is make it very clear that President Sisi now has an opportunity to right an injustice, and send a message back to the world that Egypt does pay more than just lip service to those principles.”

Greste was sentenced to three years in prison on Saturday along with Canadian journalist Mohamed Fahmy and Egyptian producer Baher Mohamed for allegedly broadcasting “false news”.

While Greste watched proceedings from Sydney after being tried in absentia, Fahmy and Mohamed are now back behind bars in Egypt.

A Downing Street spokeswoman on Saturday said: “The UK and Egypt have strong shared interests, notably in trying to ensure stability in Libya and defeating terrorism in the region.”

“We also have an important economic relationship, as the biggest foreign investor in Egypt,” she continued.

“As you would expect we follow developments in Egypt with great interest and the frank and honest relationship between our two countries allows us to raise any concerns with our Egyptian partners.

“In keeping with that relationship, the prime minister has invited President al-Sisi to visit the UK at some point later this year.”