CANBERRA, Australia (AP) — The father of an Australian journalist jailed in Egypt said his family was stunned by the court's decision to imprison his son, and Australia's prime minister vowed his government would work quickly to free the reporter and get him out of Cairo.
Australian Peter Greste was one of three Al-Jazeera journalists sentenced by a Cairo court on Monday to at least seven years in prison on terrorism-related charges stemming from an interview with the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood.
Greste's father Juris Greste told reporters in the family's hometown of Brisbane on Tuesday that he was in a state of shock and was struggling to think straight.
"We're not usually a family of superlatives, but I have to say this morning my vocabulary fails to convey just how shattered we are," Juris Greste told a news conference accompanied by his wife Lois Greste. "You can never prepare yourself for something as painful as this."
Australia's Foreign Affairs department has called in Egypt's deputy ambassador to make an official objection to the court ruling. The ambassador is currently in Cairo.
"We're obviously shocked, dismayed, really bewildered by the decision of the court in Egypt," Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott told reporters.
Abbott said Australia respects the legitimacy of the Egyptian government, its justice system and the need "to crack down on extremism including the Muslim Brotherhood, but ... it is important that there be due process, it is important that decisions be made on a fair and just basis, so we will be talking to the Greste family, we will be talking to the Egyptian government about what we can do to try to ensure that Peter Greste comes home as quickly as possible."
Abbott said he had a "very constructive discussion" about Greste over the weekend with Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi.
"My understanding is that the Egyptian court system does work at arm's length from the government, but I do understand that once the court system has done its work, then there are options for presidential acts — presidential clemency, presidential pardons and so on — that's why I'm not in the business of being critical of the government," Abbott said.
Juris Greste described the judgment as "a slap in the face and a kick in the groin to Australia as well as all fair-minded people around the world."
"Journalism is not a crime, or you should all be behind bars— it's a simple as that," he told reporters. "Our son Peter is an award-winning journalist, he is not a criminal."
Lois Greste said there has been no decision yet on an appeal, but the family was considering all options. The family did not know if their son might be able to be transferred to an Australian prison to serve his sentence.
Peter Greste's brothers, Andrew and Mike Greste, were in Cairo to hear the decision, but have not yet been allowed to visit their brother, she said.